Tuesday, April 30, 2013

this was God's will?

Read I Samuel 23 and I Thessalonians 4

Then David and his men, who were about 600, arose and departed from Keilah, and they went wherever they could go. I Samuel 23:13
For His sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count that as rubbish in order that I may gain Christ and be found in Him. Philippians 3:8&9

Christian apologetist C.S. Lewis was perfectly content to not be married. He lived a full life. He had many friends. But then, at about age 55, out of a pure sense of mercy, he married Joy Davidman, an American divorcee who had come to England to get away from her confused ex-husband. Lewis married her in a civil ceremony so she could remain in England. Then she got cancer, and out of deep compassion, he had a Christian marriage ceremony while she was in her hospital bed. Then, miracle of miracles, she recovered. And then, even more miraculously, Lewis, as quite an old man, fell deeply in love for the first time in his life. A number of years earlier he had written a book about his Christian conversion called, “Surprised by Joy.” Joy was now the name of his wife. What a coincidence! And what a very nice surprise she was to him! But cancer has a way about it. It had only gone into remission and in not very long, Joy was dead and Lewis was overwhelmed by grief and confusion. Why had God led him on like this? Joy’s death made him go back to the very beginning of his relationship with His Lord. Did He really exist? And if so, how could it be that He was a God of love? C.S. Lewis wrote a beautiful little book about this sad time called “A Grief Observed.”

While David was fleeing from Saul, he had a motley crew of untried fighting men who had attached themselves to him. He heard that a little town was being savagely stripped of its food by the Philistines. He inquired twice of the Lord as to whether he and his men should show mercy to this town by going to battle against their marauders. Twice the Lord answered in the affirmative. So they attacked and routed the Philistines. David again inquired of the Lord, will they give him up, their savior, to King Saul? God let him know that they would. The people of Keilah whom David had rescued from the hands of the Philistines betrayed his whereabouts to Saul. So David went back with all his men into the barren Judean wilderness, a place with little food and few places to hide. How could such a nasty circumstance be the will of God for David?

Both C.S. Lewis and David had acted in imitation of their Lord by showing mercy, but it seemed like God used their merciful acts against them. Should God not have blessed them for their righteousness? Is that how God treats His people?

Both David and Lewis wrote of their hard experiences. Lewis glorified God for His “severe mercy.” David wrote Psalm 63. In verses 3, 4 and 7 we read:  Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you, I will bless you as long as I live. In the shadow of your wings I sing for joy.

We know from what they wrote that neither David nor Lewis remained perplexed over the bad circumstances that resulted from following what they clearly saw was the Lord’s direction.  It was the way “appointed” by a Sovereign , loving God.

Monday, April 29, 2013


Read I Samuel 22 and Colossians 3

Let not the king impute anything to his servant, for your servant has known nothing of all this, much or small. And the king said, “You shall surely die, Ahimelech, you and all your father’s house.”  I Samuel 22:15&16
Do not lie to one another seeing that you have put off the old self and its practices. Colossians 3:9

It is very important that we are careful to make sure all our information is correct. A person who exaggerates or flatters or enhances his stories, injures himself—and is very annoying. Whoever lies to save his own skin exhibits a lack of trust in God.  But when Ahimelech was deceived by David, in no way was David culpable for the massacre that Saul directed against Ahimelech and the priests of Nob. Saul and his vile assassin bear all the guilt for such an evil act.

You might correctly say that if Ahimelech had not been lied to by David, he and his people would not have been massacred. But our Faith trusts God for how things turn out.

When Paul tells us not to lie to one another, I believe he is telling us not to pretend to be something we are not. While it may not be good to misconstrue the facts, it is a cancerous evil to misrepresent the state of our heart.

The Greek word for lie is pseudo like in pseudo intellectual or pseudo spiritual. It means a sham, or play acting. All of us who are Believers here on the earth would like to be better than we are. Some of us, because of what we do or where we live, believe it is necessary to present a false front. I know of  pastors who present themselves in an especially spiritual way because they know their paycheck depends on it.

I also know myself, and I know I try to make sure certain Christians only see a certain side of me .

I once was caught by a man who gave me a full thirty minute spiel about all his wonderful works and his wonderful family and his wonderful spiritual accomplishments. I knew some of the information he gave me was not true. But, more unfortunately, I knew he had some significant spiritual struggles in his life. I did not correct him, for in attempting to deceive others for many years, he had come to deceive himself.

In the Psalms we read the words of David, a man who is totally honest to others and to God about himself. “My sin is always before me.” Psalm 51:3 “This poor man cried out, and the Lord heard him and delivered him out of all his troubles.” Psalm 34:6 “I cry out in the daytime, but You, do not hear. I am a worm and no man, a reproach of men.” Psalm 22: 2 & 6

But he also writes, “Many are the afflictions of the righteous (who is righteous? That would be David!) But the Lord delivers him from them all.” Psalm 34:19

It is only when we are honest before God and men that we can truly praise God for the mighty work He has done in our hearts and in our lives.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

love trumps

Written by Daniel Triestman

Read I Samuel 21 and Matthew 12

I tell you something greater than the Temple is here. And if you had known what this means, “I desire mercy and not sacrifice”, you would have not condemned the guiltless. For the Son of Man is the Lord of the Sabbath. Matthew 12:6-8

In reviewing the life of Saul we have seen that Saul was something of a “complex” individual. David, as well, seems to have his share of complexities. In chapter 21 of Samuel we find David at what appears to be a physical and spiritual low point. Not only is David's situation complicated -living in exile of his own kingdom, running for his life from his father-in-law/best friend's dad- but his response to his situation also seems to have a measure of complication. David responds to these challenges by lying to a priest, violating the Levitical law, defiling the tabernacle, fearing for his life, deceiving two kings, feigning insanity and drooling.

When the disciples were confronted by the Pharisees for picking heads of grain on the Sabbath Jesus easily could have challenged their interpretation of law. Jesus was certainly able to explain what the Sabbath really meant and how it ought to be followed. However instead of just correcting their understanding of the Sabbath, Jesus countered the Pharisees by pulling rank. Jesus presented Himself as Lord of the Sabbath and demonstrated from David's situation in Sam. 21 that status is greater than commandments. In quoting from Hosea 6 Jesus seemed to be telling the Pharisees that what matters is not just what you do, but who you are.

Yesterday Larry spoke of love as being exclusive, divisive and “hateful” by nature. He argued that in order for us to demonstrate love we must also show a measure of neglect or disdain for everyone that is not the direct recipient of our love. This does not mean that we need to behave rudely or unkindly to everyone that is not our spouse. In fact we are commanded to love neighbors, enemies, the brethren, God, etc. But even though we may be expected to have a universality to our love, we still reserve a practical distinction with special considerations and benefits for those with whom we share a deeper, more intimate love.

I like everyone. I may even say I love everyone. I never lock my door and have come home to all manner of persons in my house over the years. I love them all, but some I love better than others. Some I invite to stay for dinner. Some get to stay the night. One of them I even let share my bed. A few of them have spit on me or vomited on me -to no effect. Some of them I have asked to leave just for belching.

David had a special relationship with God. More significant than anything that David did in his life was the fact that God loved him. David may have made more good choices than bad, but his blessing was not merely the net outcome of his virtue, but rather his status of being a friend of God. My friends are allowed to come into my house, eat my bread, even drool. The question is not whether their behavior is right or wrong, the question is whether or not they are my friends.

John 3 tells us that God loves the world. Romans 9, however, seems to say that God loved some more than others. Does loving the world mean that He must love us all the same? Are our sins all treated the same? Are our efforts all regarded the same? Do we all have the same privileges/blessings? What does it mean to be “loved of God?”

Saturday, April 27, 2013


Read I Samuel 20 and Luke 14

Then Saul’s anger was kindled against Jonathan, and he said to him, “You son of a perverse and rebellious woman, do I not know that you have chosen the son of Jesse to your own shame?” I Samuel 20:30
If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Luke 14:26

What the Lord Jesus said about having to hate your family—that’s got to be another one of those hyperbole type of things that we’re really not suppose to take literally. I mean, you have to take everything within its context and we have to look at all the other passages of Scripture that clearly say exactly the opposite. Right? Besides, hate is such a strong word. In the Greek, hate must mean something much softer than what it means in English.

As I’ve mentioned before in this devotional, I believe very strongly that when the Lord Jesus says something, that is what He says. And we have to believe Him for what He says. We are not allowed to reason it away.

Of all the people to whom Jonathan could have committed his friendship, committing it to David was the most hateful to his father.

Love is like that. Nothing excludes like love. Nothing separates like love. Nothing “hates” like love.

I once had a girlfriend (who now happens to be my wife) who I wondered if she really cared for me. One day she came upon me laughing and chatting with another girl. I watched her turn around and go the other direction and I wondered, “What’s that about?” The next time I saw my girlfriend, she was mad. “It’s either her or me,” she said. “Wow!” I thought. I don’t know that I’d ever been so happy.  I said to my girlfriend. “It is you. It is not her. it is totally you.”
My wife is not jealous by nature. Jealousy is totally not a part of our marriage dynamic. But I know I belong to her to the exclusion of all others.

We know a person whose extended family took a vacation together. One member of the family was not a Believer. Early one Sunday morning, the rest of the family agreed to get together to have a short time of remembering the Lord. The nonbelieving family member also happened to get up early and came upon them sharing a few precious thoughts from the Scripture together. She was outraged. “This is the most hateful thing you could do to me. Why did you conspire to all get together to practice your religion? Didn’t you understand how bad this would make me feel?”

When Jonathan chose David, he chose against his father.  When I chose my wife, I chose against all my other friends who were girls. When we as Believers chose our Precious Savior to be our Lord, we make a choice against all others no matter how dear they may be to us. When push comes to shove, our Lord comes first.

Friday, April 26, 2013

moral principles

Written by Matt Lange

Read Genesis 2 and Ephesians 6

Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him. Genesis 2:18
In Genesis we can read about creation and how God made everything with a purpose, complete with a plan to follow. We can also read how God created man (Genesis 2:7) and woman (Genesis 2:21-22), given to each other as suitable partners. They had children and their children had children. A few hundred years went by as all these people went about doing what they wanted and God decided He was done with mankind... we had grieved God (Genesis 6:5-7).

All told as humans we have a knack for being stupid... excuse me... being idiots... no, that's not right either. Anyway it hasn't gotten any better and will get worse as time goes on. Many debates are taking place in our society today taking up time, energy and money. I try not to engage in most of these conversations for I wonder about their intelligence.

It amazes me that our “Christian" society continues to seriously consider so many distraction from truth. I have mentioned before that generally speaking I believe church has become not much more than a feel good Sunday morning. People attend church not expect to hear any truth but rather go to feel good about merely showing up.

Recently I listened to a conversation about Biblical principles. I used to say we need to look at God’s intention or His original design for something. Now I think more about our society as having moral distractions. I often think that because we rebel against God as creator, designer, leader, master and savior... we now are doing the same thing with morals.

At what point do we tell others about Biblical purpose when they don't understand moral principles?

We are reminded in Ephesians 6:10-17 that we are at war. I, we, need to understand that this IS a God vs. Satan world and we are the soldiers. Teach morals in our homes, schools, churches, cars, streets we live on... followed by biblical truths and principles. We grieve God because we don't understand morals He set through Scripture. Truths that get twisted or spun to fit our own desires and whims.

Ephesians 6:18-20 are our resource... pray for one another. Pray that when we open our mouths we will proclaim the Gospel fearlessly as we should. Let us not forget simple truths and morals based on biblical principles. It is not about women-rights, gay movements, gun control or mental illeness. It is about knowing who you are in Christ and why you are in Christ.... after all, when it hits the fan, nothing else will matter!

Just my opinion of course.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

mercy mercy me

Read I Samuel 19 and Luke 18

And Saul listened to the voice of Jonathan. Saul swore, “As the Lord lives, he shall not be put to death.” I Samuel 19:6
But I say to you, do not swear at all. Mathew 5:33

Several days back, Daniel Triestman wrote a very thoughtful devotional regarding the character of Saul. We want to think that bad intentions, evil actions and negative outcomes are the exclusive property of rotten people. It is more comfortable to live in a world of clear contrasts between black and white, angels and demons, saved and unsaved, good and bad. In I Samuel 15 some may see Saul as nothing more than an evil, petty man. Others may find more complexity and ambivalence. As we read through Samuel, as well as journey through life, we do not need to be the soul-police looking for saints so that we may see goodness or sinners so that we may condemn. We are free to learn God's lessons of grace, justice, love, kindness, forgiveness, etc. through His dealings with all of His complex creation.

I’ve written several of the devotions since then expressing not much patience with Saul. In one I wrote, Saul was a complex man. If a person does not understand that God is all in all, the beginning and the end, that person becomes more and more complex, for his heart is moved in many directions.

That was a glib and simplistic response for I know what is in my own heart and I know there is much besides God in it. I know how hard it is for me to remember God’s overriding love when life’s circumstances go awry. But, curiously, my greatest spiritual strength is when I realize my own poverty.

I appreciate how Alcoholic’s Anonymous begins each of their sessions with everyone in the room identifying themselves by giving their name and then saying, “And I am an alcoholic.”

I wish I did not have to confess it, but I am a man with a quick temper. I remember once before I was married when I lost my temper and I was so ashamed. I wanted more than anything to promise my fiancĂ© I would never ever lose my temper again. But I knew this would not be the case. I cried out to the Lord, “Please help me for I am so hopeless and helpless.” But, and this is so odd, it’s been a very long time since I’ve lost my temper.

Am I victorious? Could I swear to you that my temper will never again show its hideous face? I could not. I dare not. But whenever I feel my temper begin to form in me, and start to gain some momentum, I think, “Lord, please help me again, like you helped me last time. I’m so sorry for this again.”

Good for me, right? Good for me for being an overcomer! More than a conqueror!

I don’t think so. I know better than to be so pleased about anything in myself.

Scripture tells us that Saul listened to the rebuke of his son Jonathan. That’s good. But Saul should not have sworn to God that he would never try to kill David again. Instead he should have acknowledged his weakness, his sin, and thrown himself on the Lord’s mercy. He should have said, “My name is King Saul, anointed of God, and I am a would be murderer.”

We are all complex people with a complex history and complex motivations. But we all do have a simple solution: “God, be merciful to me, a sinner.” Luke 18:13

Wednesday, April 24, 2013


Read I Samuel 18 and John 15

The soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David; and Jonathan loved him as his own soul. I Samuel 18:1

Friendship makes life good for all sorts of creatures and at every stage of life. Months before a child learns to talk, he learns to make friends. And, if you go to a nursing home, you will see friends enjoying  friends.

My most unusual friend was Ralph. I was pretty annoyed when he told me one day that he had chosen me to be his friend, and then explained why he had made such a choice. It was a spiritual discipline. He had been convicted by our Lord’s commandment to, “love your enemies.” What had he done to love his enemies? Nothing, so he looked around for the person he disliked the most, and he chose me!

Of all the groups that hung about together in college, Ralph felt my group to be the most superficial and the least friendly. And, after analyzing each one in our group, Ralph found me to be the worst of this bad bunch. (My old college roommate still shudders when he remembers Ralph.)

But before Ralph had explained this to me, he had become my friend. We had gone out to Oregon together to help a couple of our college professors put together a site for a college extension program. Every day Ralph made sure he sat next to me whenever there was sitting to do and Ralph made sure he worked with me on whatever project we could do together.

During this time I learned all about Ralph’s childhood as a missionary kid in Africa. His parents had a passion for bringing the gospel to places where people had never seen a white person before. So wherever they went, all the kids wanted to touch and poke Ralph to see if he was real. Ralph was a romantic. He believed God delighted in beauty and he believed the best way to show our love for God was to delight in all He had made. His idealism was off the charts. To Ralph, any type of show or anything that hinted of hypocrisy was anathema.

One day he said to me, “Larry, I actually like you.” That was not news to me. Ralph was my best friend. We had a great time together. Both of us were up for anything. He loved to work and loved to hike and so did I. Our discussions were sincere and intense, but never was there an argumentative spirit between us. I’m sure today he would still be my best friend, but he was killed in a car accident when he and his wife went back to visit friends in Africa. His wife later wrote me that immediately before the fatal accident, Ralph had been reminiscing about his good friend Larry Rodgers.

You never know who God will gift you with as a friend. King Saul could not believe Jonathan had chosen David, the one who would usurp his throne. Jonathan had no regrets, no second thoughts about his friend. He knew their friendship was the best of the good gifts that God is so gracious in giving to us here on planet earth.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013


Read I Samuel 17 and I John 3

“For who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God?” I Samuel 17:26

David, as I’m sure you know, means beloved.  Goliath means banish, or to send into exile.

To be exiled has always been my greatest terror. As the youngest in my family I was often sent away by my brother, and even by my sister, because I was too little. In grade school, I spent an awful lot of time out in the hall. (I have an adult friend who was recently diagnosed with ADD. He insists  that I have a much worse case of ADD than he has, so I think that may be the reason my teachers felt the only time they could get their classroom under control was when I was not in it.)

But worst of all was hearing about the Rapture—that time when everybody who cared for me would be gone in the twinkling of any eye. I knew, of course, that only those who weren’t saved would be left behind, so I desperately tried to get saved. And I did get “saved,” like many times. My mom finally gave up trying to record all these special occasions. Her Bible only came with six blank pages.

So the giant of banishment has loomed large in my life, even to this day. When I got terminated from my job in January, the thought of being banished is what has made it so hard. Over the past couple of months, I’ve talked with different ones who I had worked with every day for years and years. Each time one of them tells me they miss me, I can’t talk any more. I can hear them saying, “Yea, I talked to Larry. He got so emotional, I think he started crying. I had no idea he liked me so much.” I did like them, well enough. But the reason I get so choked up was because I was exiled from them.

Goliath means banished. But David means beloved.  My real name is David Lawrence Rodgers. David is my dad’s name. We named our first born son David. I hope to hear that one of my grandsons is named David.

The beloved is never banned. Who would exile the beloved? More than anything, more than life itself, one wants to be with the beloved.

David sounded a bit cocky when he said to this huge creature standing in front of him, “You come to me with a sword, and with a spear, and with a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the Lord of Hosts. This day the Lord will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you down and cut off your head.

Maybe not, thought Goliath. But David did. And he did it because he was beloved of God.

We all see a lot of giants around. We know we are in big trouble when we look out and see things like cancer, or terrorists, or America’s decay, or our job about to end, or…

We need to take this to heart—you and me, every one of us who takes God at His Word—no giant stands a chance against those of us who, like David, are beloved of the Lord.  

Monday, April 22, 2013

no excuses

Read I Samuel 15 and Hebrews 10

Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice. I Samuel 15:22

In explaining one of his adventures, our son told us, “It is easier asking forgiveness than asking permission.” He told us that humorously, of course. There were certain things he was going to do, and he was not terribly concerned whether we as his parents approved or not. The adrenaline rush had much more authority in his life at that time than his parents. Nonetheless, he did still care for us. And he did understand that he had all the privileges of a son in that we gave him food and a bed and the society of a family. He was sincere in wanting to get along with us and he did feel bad that he was doing things that he knew we would not approve. But, as you can imagine, this was not a situation that could last while he was living under our roof unless, of course, we abdicated as parents.

Saul’s rationalizing to Samuel that the reason he did not follow God’s orders to destroy everything of the Amelikites was because he wanted to save the best of the cattle to sacrifice to God, was so foolish as to be humorous. God was not impressed.

I’ve never heard anyone accept as literal what the Lord said, “And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into the hell of fire.” Matthew 18:9 I agree that the Lord is not promoting the practice of tearing out your eyes, but I do believe the Lord is speaking literally. What our Lord is saying  is that we should not make any excuse to disobey what the Lord tells us to do.

Of course we all sin. Anyone who says he does not sin is a liar. But we may never rationalize our sin. We may never say we had no choice but to disobey God’s authority.

When God tells us to not hate, to turn the other cheek, to not allow any root of bitterness to spring up, to not bite and devour each other, to pray without ceasing, to give thanks in everything, to avoid all sexual impropriety, to long for the Lord’s appearance, to not isolate ourselves from an assembly of Believers …those are all things we are obligated to do. We may not excuse our bad behavior. We may not suggest that since God is loving and long suffering, regardless of what we do, “He’ll get over it. Anyways, isn’t that why Jesus died on the cross, to take care of all our sins?” see Romans 6:1

God is a forgiving God. He is an overwhelmingly forgiving God. And the sacrifice of His Precious Son is totally efficacious. But, how dare we think that because of this, we can get away with disregarding His authority?

In Psalm 51:16, 17 & 19, after David’s horrible sin, David wrote, “For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it; you will not be pleased with a burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and a contrite heart.  Then you will delight in right sacrifices, in burnt offerings and whole offerings.”

So what is the difference between the unacceptable and the acceptable sacrifice? The acceptable sacrifice, the sacrifice that comes with forgiveness is the one in which a person accepts the authority of God and does not make allowances for his disobedience to it.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

a complex man

Read I Samuel 15 (again) and James  4

And Samuel said to Saul, “I will not return with you, for you have rejected the word of the Lord.”

Three people in Scripture get a particularly good spin for their bad behavior: Eve, Judas and Saul. The stories of Eve and Judas have been the plots of many novels: always tragic, and always sympathetic. For some reason God gets all the blame, either for their misbehavior or way overdoing the consequences for their transgression. Eve is portrayed heroically. She has the courage to defy a capricious God because she knows she must fulfill her destiny as the humanity’s first woman. The spin on Judas is all across the board.  But regardless of why he betrayed the Lord Jesus, he had his reasons—yet for some reason, the Biblical explanation of Judas being merely a thief and thus greedy for money is never mentioned.

Saul is definitely the lesser of these three antiheroes. I’ve never seen any serious novels with his story being the plot. And I don’t hear skeptics using Saul as a proof-text as their indictment against God. But in scholarly Biblical studies, Saul is explained as complex and conflicted. Discussion is made on whether the writer(s) of I Samuel were overly harsh in a glib assessment of his character.

My first response to this is that though Samuel had to tell Saul that God had rejected him, Scripture tells us that Samuel, “grieved over Saul.” I Samuel 15:35. Then we read, “The Lord said to Samuel, “How long will you grieve over Saul, since I have rejected him from being king over all of Israel?” 

Though I don’t dare suggest that I can judge when this is, there comes a time when every person either acknowledges God and His legitimate authority, or acknowledges another authority. This is something that every accountable person is responsible to do. No one is allowed to claim they are merely victims of their circumstances .Scripture tells us, “He who believes is not condemned, but he who does not believe is condemned already. John 3:18. We also read, “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you,” James 4:8. We know that our Lord, “is not willing that any should perish.” II Peter 3:9

Saul was a complex man. If a person does not understand that God is all in all, the beginning and the end, that person becomes more and more complex, for his heart is moved in many directions.

I am guessing there are very few pure atheists. Certainly Saul was not an atheist. His understanding of God and his relationship with God was part of his heart’s equation, part of the reason why Saul did what he did. But that was the problem. His heart was divided.

David, after he committed the most heinous of sins, confessed, “Against You and You only have I sinned.” Psalm 51:4. Reckoned by specific acts of sin, David was much, much worse than Saul. Yet he knew at this horrible time he could have faith in God, “A broken and a contrite heart, oh God, You will not despise.” Psalm 51: 17. David knew he could find forgiveness, even for this worst of sins, for his faith was a simple faith.

I don’t know what was in Saul’s heart.  I have no real idea who or what his faith was in. He seems to have been a complex man.

Saturday, April 20, 2013


Written by Matt Lange

Read Job 42 and Revelation 21

And He that was seated on the throne said, “Behold I am making all things new.” Revelation 21:5

(During the writing of this devotion, I learned of the fire at Mill Creek. Remember to pray for all involved as they look to their future.)

As it is with a wildfire that ravages the forest, our lives are changed by tragedy. Fire destroys the very nature of things as it consumes whatever is in its path. The more it consumes, the hotter it gets and the more it destroys. Yet after the fire has gone out, a change takes place in the forest, prairie, mountain ridge or in our own lives. Life begins anew! In nature, the black char gives way to green life sprouting from the pit of death. Life grows stronger and healthier than it was prior to destruction, often growing something new that wasn't there before.

I think of these verses Galatians 2:20... I have been crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live... Romans 6:23... For the wages of sin is death but the free gift of God is eternal life. Matthew 8:34 / Luke 9:23... If anyone would come after Me, he must deny himself...

These verses talk about death. The simple fact is we are a selfish people, thinking we know best what our lives need. The hard fact is, we don't! So in order for us to realize certain matters of our heart, we must deny (put to death) ourselves. Some of you might be hearing that we are put through hard times because of sin in our lives... I don't believe that to typically be true for a Believer. We go through many hard things so the Lord can teach us what we need to know about ourselves and about Himself. Only then can we grow. I also believe not everything difficult thing happens for a specific reason--though that difficult thing can result in a specific blessing,

I’ve realized in my life, through the "wildfire," comes a better understanding of what God would have for me. (Sometimes that understanding comes through the help of another’s eyes.)  But when we seek out the truth, He will show it to us. Our first step in understanding God’s purposes, is the denial, the death of ourselves. Only then can we see truth, and grow afresh.

From my own life experiences I have learned there are many seasons in our lives; some easier than others.

It becomes all worth it as we press on toward the prize before us.

Friday, April 19, 2013

you don't look so good

Read I Samuel 16 and Romans 2

For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance but the Lord looks on the heart. I Samuel 16:6

I told one of the new ladies that I work with, “I’m amazed you’re 65. You look much younger,” She agreed she looked young for her age—which is good when you are 65.
“So, I suppose you are amazed that I am 59,” I said to her.
“No, not at all,” she said. “But you do look healthy.”
Which I appreciated hearing. I am healthy. But it seems to me that 59 is pretty old to look like.

I had a good friend who was in an intense training program with about twenty other students. At the end of the program they each had to show competency and my friend was the only one of the twenty who had to redo one of the practicums. He said the other students were very nice to him, but he was so humiliated. When they all went out to eat to celebrate the end of their program, my friend could not bear to go out with them despite having finally passed everything.  

“I wonder if they even gave my failure a second thought,” said my friend. “But here I was so concerned about what they thought about me.”

We knew a young man who had a small pimple on his nose. He held both his hands in front of his nose wherever he went so nobody would see his pimple. But, of course, we all saw this kid walking around with two hands in front of his nose.

It is true the people tend to be critical, or to be impressed with the externals. Just as the prophet Samuel was impressed with David’s big brothers, so we also are impressed by things that give no true indication of what that person is.

But some of the things we are so concerned about because of what our friends might think, mean nothing at all to them.

I am still so humiliated because I lost my job. And I am still mortified that I might lose my new job. Our friends have been so understanding to me during this time. And the Lord has been very gracious. We have seen the His hand in several specific things that have happened, and my trust in Him has deepened.

So why my continued feelings of humiliation?--because I’m so concerned about what people might think.

David’s big brothers did not have much respect for him. But their lack of respect did not matter at all. David was who he was. Samuel was very impressed with David’s brothers. But again, his first impression did not matter at all, for God had chosen David to be His anointed one.

What matters is what the Lord thinks of a person, and there are two very nice reasons for this: The first is that the Lord is kind and merciful and He remembers we are but dust. We fail, but He saves and redeems. The second is that the Lord sees through all the husks that others may see when they look at us. He sees us exactly as we are, and amazing, amazing, He sees us as His beloved. Rom 9:25 That means He likes us! 

Thursday, April 18, 2013

judging character

written by Daniel Triestman

Read I Samuel 15 and Luke 9

And Samuel said to Saul, “Though you are little in your own eyes, are you not the head of the tribes of Israel? The Lord anointed you king over Israel.”

Whether you like Saul or not you have to at least appreciate that he is a multidimensional person. He sins against God and loses the kingdom, but Scripture also suggests positive behaviors/outcomes in reference to Saul. Thus far we have read of Saul:

He was chosen of God, he was the Lord's anointed, “God changed his heart,” “the Spirit of God came upon him” “he prophesied,” (I Sam. 10); he delivered Jabesh, “the Spirit of God came upon him mightily,” he defeated the Ammonites, he saved the lives of his detractors, “he rejoiced,” (I Sam. 11); he attacked the Philistines, he was brave while “the people trembled,” he asked the favor of the Lord (I Sam. 13); he consulted the priest, he was successful in battle, he pursued the Philistines, he “inquired of God,” he tried to purge out sin, he “prayed to God,” he was answered by God, he “acted valiantly”, he “defeated the Amalekites, he “delivered Israel,” (I Sam 14); he was charged by God again even after his sin, he showed kindness to those who showed kindness to Israel, he blessed Samuel, he stated a desire to give the best to the Lord, he admitted his sin, he asked for forgiveness, he stated a desire to worship the Lord, he admitted his sin again, he stated a desire to worship the Lord again, he accepted the judgment of the Lord, he “worshiped the Lord,” (I Sam. 15).

The text does not ask us to dismiss all of Saul's behaviors as the product of illicit motives, or all of his accomplishments as the results of evil actions. Saul, like all of us, was a complicated person with complex and dynamic intentions, behaviors and outcomes. To suggest that Saul's “every action” came from “anger,” “fear,” “pressure,” “regret” or “bewilderment” pretends an insight into Saul's heart that Scripture does not provide and perhaps veil's the real lesson that we need to learn from Saul.

Human-beings are pattern-seeking by design. We look for systems, congruity and order in everything. This helps us to know what foods are poisonous (“Hmm, Bill and George both died after eating those berries, maybe I shouldn't eat them”) and what animals make bad pets (baby crocodiles may seem cute, but they grow up), but this is also why we believe that groundhogs can predict the weather or why we are constantly finding depictions of the Virgin Mary on our Fig Newtons. Or why the friends of Job insisted that he had sinned.

It is reasonable to look for these patterns in Scripture, as well. It makes sense to categorize a person, as Chronicles does, as either one who “did evil in the sight of the Lord” or on who “did what was right in the sight of the Lord.” However, only God can determine who is righteous and who is evil. As well, just because someone is identified as good or evil does not mean that all of their actions will be consistent with their character. When Christ tells us that a tree is known by its fruit (Matt. 7:20; 12:33) he is not telling us to look at how we might wish to categorize a person and use that to identify whether their actions are good or evil. Rather He appears to be suggesting that we can look at a prophet's actions, His for example, and know whether or not the prophet is to be believed.

We want to think that bad intentions, evil actions and negative outcomes are the exclusive property of rotten people. It is more comfortable to live in a world of clear contrasts between black and white, angels and demons, saved and unsaved, good and bad. It is difficult to imagine that a born-again Christian would cheat on their wife, while a godless, unregenerate man could be possibly loving and faithful. So we excuse the Christian's sin as “not him, but the flesh within him,” and dismiss the sinner's love as “coming from selfish motives.”

In Luke 9, the disciples presume to know the character and quality of others. They argue with one another about who is greatest, they prevent a man from casting out demons, they inquire to destroy a Samaritan village, they seemed to place Christ on par with His prophets. In all four situations they are rebuked by God. Despite the pattern of behaviors that they had observed the disciples were deemed unqualified to judge anyone, let alone themselves.

In I Samuel 15 some may see Saul as nothing more than an evil, petty man. Others may find more complexity and ambivalence. Given Saul's diverse outcomes, which Saul makes for a more clear pattern?

As we read through Samuel, as well as journey through life, we do not need to be the soul-police looking for saints so that we may see goodness or sinners so that we may condemn. We are free to learn God's lessons of grace, justice, love, kindness, forgiveness, etc. through His dealings with all of His complex creation.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

predestined to fail

Read I Samuel 14 and II Corinthians 13

“Then said Jonathan, “My father has troubled the land.” II Samuel 14:29

Among fathers and sons, as the sons get older, generally there is a natural conflict. Sons, who had idolized their fathers as young boys, come to a time in their lives where they can make no sense of why their fathers do what they do. I remember overhearing a conversation that my 13 year old son had with my 15 year old daughter, “Why do you think Dad is always right? He’s not always right you know.” I would have hollered into their conversation, “Amen.” But it was suppose to be private.

Clearly, the Lord has made it so a young man’s brain will begin making its own observations and conclusions. The answer of a frustrated father, “Because I told you so,” just won’t work anymore. That’s why in an agricultural community, farmers typically send off their teenage sons to work for the neighbor down the road. That’s why it is a really bad idea for a father to coach his teenage son’s sports team.

In most cases, at age 25 or 26, the son has an epiphany. He hears his dad say something and he thinks to himself, “That was not the dumbest thing I ever heard said.” And then he catches himself laughing at something his dad said, and he’s laughing not because it was so stupid, but because it was funny.

Regardless, the Lord has made sons to look at things differently from their fathers. Sons may learn from their father’s wise counsel and their father’s good example. But they often learn even more from their father’s foolishness and inconsistencies.

In yesterday’s devotion, Dan wrote, “I like Saul, He had no qualifications or royal credentials, but Israel needed a leader and so he “manned-up.” He took a group of frightened, barbarous tribes and forged them into a kingdom, united under God. Yet despite his best efforts, Saul's rule was destined for failure. The kingship that Israel was already promised to Judah and his descendants.”

Though I always really like what Dan has to say, I really dislike Saul. --And I really like Saul’s son Jonathan.

There are a few unimpeachable characters in the Bible. One of those is Joseph who kept his integrity despite the insidiousness of his enemies. And there is Daniel, who kept his integrity despite the pressure on him from his enemies to cave in. Of course there is the Lord Jesus, whose love for His Father kept Him absolutely focused on the task in front of Him. And then there is Jonathan who was such a contrast to his father.

Saul did nothing of his own thoughtful volition. His every action came from anger, or fear, or Samuel’s commands, or from pressure by the people, or from regret, or from his bewildered sense of principle.

Jonathan learned so much from his father: He took the initiative as he courageously trusted in the Lord to direct him. He was sensible, practical, fearless and, curiously, bypassed by God to be His chosen king—though, (his father pointed out to him his stupidity) he lovingly protected the very one who would “usurp” his rightful place on the throne. Jonathan knew that God had already chosen David to be the next king.  And he felt not at all a victim because of God’s plan for Israel’s king 600 years before he was born.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

wrong, small and foolish

Written by Daniel Triestman

Read Samuel 13, Romans 5

So I said to myself, “Now the Philistines will come down against me at Gilgal, and I have not yet sought the Lord.” So I forced myself, and I offered the burnt offering. I Samuel 13:12

I like Saul. His latter-life cartoonish-villainy aside, I feel like I can understand where he is coming from. He never asked to be king. In fact, a few chapters earlier he was hiding from the job. He had no qualifications or royal credentials, but Israel needed a leader and so he “manned-up.” He took a group of frightened, barbarous tribes and forged them into a kingdom, united under God. Yet despite his best efforts, Saul's rule was destined for failure. The kingship that Israel should not have asked for was already promised to Judah and his descendants (Gen. 49:10), despite what Samuel says (1 Sam. 13:13). Saul's coronation seems to have been to teach Israel a lesson. However despite being placed in a lose/lose situation, Saul seemed to want to do what was right for the nation. He attempted to expand their borders and purge the land of the Philistine threat. He wanted to war in the best interest of the nation, yet refused to go to battle without first petitioning the Lord. Despite his countrymen abandoning him, Saul seemed to keep the faith.

I don't know what I would have done if I were Saul: “If I go to battle without petitioning the Lord then I am not regarding YHVH as the sovereign determinant of the outcome. Samuel said he would be here by now. Maybe he ran off as well. I could wait, but how long? The longer I wait the more the nation begins to lose faith, the more they think that we have reason to doubt God.” Saul's attitude as described in the text seems to suggest that he had a respect for Samuel, an appreciation for the importance of the offering and a faith in God. Saul seemed to have good motives. Saul's heart seemed to be in the right place. Saul appeared to think the situation through and want to make the decision that blesses Israel and honors God. But Saul blew it.

I don't know what I would have done if I were Saul, but I am fairly certain that whatever it was it would have been the wrong thing. I would have had the best intentions and still found a way to mess things up. Maybe I would have gone to war without petitioning God because I had too great a respect for the office of priest to offer a sacrifice. Maybe I would have scammed someone else into offering the sacrifice before we went to war. Maybe I would have waited for Samuel, but end up cursed because I yelled at him for being late.(I hate it when people are late). I would have spent my 42 year reign trying to do the right thing, to my own peril. However I want to believe that, unlike Saul, I would have acknowledged my royal blunders with humility. I hope I would have responded to my judgment by confessing my sin and stupidity, praising God for His righteousness and appealing to His mercy.

Humans, by nature, are short-sighted and mistaken. Good motives and best intentions are no guarantee to avoid sin or bring about desired outcomes. Yet it is realizing that we are incapable of righteousness that establishes our need for faith and our dependence on God's grace. The problem with our sin is not that it exists, but that we don't know that it exists. We ignore our sin, we excuse our sin, we forgive our sin or we simply are too stupid to know that it is sin. We trick ourselves into believing that because we want to do the right thing, the thing we ended up doing was right. What we need to do is realize that we are wrong, small and foolish. And the only real virtue we have is recognizing our own inadequacy. The lesson of Saul is, ironically, the story of grace.

Monday, April 15, 2013

warn with care

Read I Samuel 12 and II Corinthians 13

“Far be it from me that I should sin against God by ceasing to pray for you, and I will instruct you in the good and the right way.” I Samuel 12:23

Samuel warned the Israelites against insisting upon a king. He told them of all the bad consequences of such a decision. But the Israelites would not be dissuaded.

To warn someone is to stick one’s neck out. Even your closest friends will feel you are violating their personal space. I heard on public radio recently that the verse in the Bible that is most known is Matthew 7:1 “Judge not, that you be not judged.” If you warn someone, you are judging them.

My wife and I try to be sparing with our warnings. We do understand, as the Lord Jesus explained, we may have things in our own lives that are in great need of change.  We also understand that we only see part of the picture and that the person we feel a need to warn may have reasons unknown to us for what they do. But we also know there are times when a warning is necessary if one is to be compassionate.

When I was a teenager, I worked at Kansas Bible Camp. Richard Burson was the camp director. His son was my best friend there. I liked Richard a lot and I knew he respected me as a good worker. But every so often he would say to me, “Larry baby, are you saved?” This was so annoying.  Did he think he knew my heart? Richard was warning me.  I needed to get saved.

I had a history teacher in college. He thought I was hilarious. His classes were mostly student discussion and I could tell from watching him that he was very interested in what I said in class. One day he called me into his office and said to me, “Larry, I have never met a person who could alienate so many people in so short a time as yourself.” I thought he was my friend… He was my friend. Otherwise he would not have said anything.

My son was wayward. His circumstances were difficult and becoming more difficult. We prayed. We fasted. Twice we travelled thousands of miles to talk with him, to be with him. A lady from our church said to me, “Do you think your son knows you love him?” That was a low blow. Even now the question fills me with sadness. But she was right, I needed, more than anything else, to love my son, and I needed to let him know that I loved him. Today he knows I love him. And I know too that he loves me.

Whatever else might be said about the Israelites, despite their not heeding Samuel’s warning, they knew Samuel cared deeply for them and they pleaded for him to pray for them.

Though people may disregard our warnings, to throw up our hands and walk away is not the response we should have. May we be like Samuel who said to the Israelites, “Far be it from me to sin against God by not continuing to pray for you.”

Sunday, April 14, 2013

resist the devil

Read I Samuel 11 and James 4

But Nahash the Ammonite said to them, “On this condition I will make a treaty with you, that I gouge out your right eyes and thus bring disgrace to all of Israel.” The elders of Jabesh said to him, "Give us seven days that we may send messengers through all the territory of Israel. Then, if there be no one to save us, we will give ourselves us to you."  I Samuel 11:2&3

As the name Nahash is the Hebrew word for serpent, I believe we can infer that this story teaches us about Satan. It seems odd that Nahash would agree to the request of the besieged citizens of the city of Jabesh-Gilead that he give them seven days to see if they could get any help from their countrymen. Apparently he was so confident in the strength of his army and so convinced of the non-concern of the Israelites that he thought no harm would come from it. For who could care about a town with a hyphenated name that means dry (Jabesh), and exposed (Gilead)?

But the Israelites did care. First they wept when they heard their sad story. And then Saul got mad and took charge, mustering an overwhelming force of 1/3 of a million men against Nahash. Their victory was so complete that of those surviving from Nahash’s army, “no two of them were left together.” I Sam 3:11

Scripture teaches us to how to approach our various enemies. Against our youthful lusts, we are told to flee. II Tim 2:22 Against our discouragement, we are told to buck up. Hebrews 12:12 Against the world, we are told to shine. Philippians 2:15. But against the Devil we are told to resist. That means we are told to stand up and fight Him! James 4:7.

It seems to me the Devil and his minions are a powerful force. Paul writes, “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” Ephesians 6:12. That sounds terrifying.  

One of the primary names of God is Yahweh Sebaot, the LORD of hosts. This name speaks of the power of God who has all the heavenly hosts under His command.We need not fear Satan, for when we are with the Lord, there is no contest. Our Lord is the all Powerful One, our great Champion. We can win against Satan when we take a stand against him in the strength of our God.


The Lord has set up certain barriers between our realm and the realm of the supernatural. It seems Satan cannot typically enter our realm unless we make a breach for him. If we seek to amuse ourselves by using tools of the occult, or by using any type of hallucinatory drugs (however innocuous we may believe them to be), Satan and his minions will accept the invitation. But there are still times when Satan finds a way to terrorize through dreams, or through people under his control, or circumstances. At those times we have been given the authority through the Name of the Lord Jesus, to demand that he be gone. Mark 16:17

Like Nahash, Satan is a terrorist. To cause us the greatest amount of fear seems to be his modus operandi. We do not have to succumb to his terrors. John writes, “Greater is He that is in you, than he that is in the world.” I John 4:4

When, like the citizens of Jabesh-Gilead, I feel dry and exposed, and Satan harasses me with his terrors, I remember like David. “The Lord is my refuge and strength. An ever present help in time of need.” Psalm 46:1

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Holy Spirit power

Read I Samuel 10 and Matthew 13

When Saul turned his back to leave Samuel, God gave him another heart. I Samuel 10:9
And immediately they sprang up, since they had no depth of soil. Matthew 13:5

When reading about Saul’s early days, I wish I didn’t know the end of the story. Saul was a simple man whom the Lord made great. God gave him a new heart and, we read, “the Spirit of God rushed upon him and he prophesied.” People were astonished at such a dramatic conversion. So much so that what happened to Saul became a proverb, “Is Saul also among the prophets?”  That proverb was used to express astonishment at a change for the good that comes upon certain people. As an example, if you had a child who was doing poorly in school, but suddenly things seemed to click for him and he went to the head of his class, if you were an Israelite 3000 years ago, you would say about your child, “Is Saul also among the prophets?” For who could believe it?

Over the years we have had watched different ones undergo dramatic conversions. We watched many punk kids become serious about the Lord and turn into godly young adults. There is nothing more encouraging to see.

Shortly after my wife and I were married, we had a friend who really challenged us to be whole hearted in our Christian walk. He would say to me, “So what Scripture did you memorize today?” I’d shake my head, “Mike,” I would tell him. “I just can’t memorize.”

“Larry, you can memorize. You have to commit yourself to it,” he would say.

He loved to share the gospel.  He had been a drunk and a carouser, but now he would track down his old friends and open the Scriptures with them.

He was great in a Bible study for his insights were good and he was excited about every truth he’d see in the Scriptures.

But slowly, gradually, his zeal began to cool. Somehow someone at our church had hurt his feelings. And he was sort of frustrated by how lackadaisical some of us seemed to be about our Faith. He’d bring his Bible with him into the bars, but he began drinking more than sharing.

The last time I saw him, I was delighted to see him again. “Mike,” I called out to him. “I haven’t seen you forever. How ya doing?”  He looked at me like he hadn’t heard me. Then he walked away.  Unfortunately we have lost track of him over the years .

What happened to Saul? He had the Spirit of God in him. But, unlike an evil spirit, the Holy Spirit does not overpower a person. We still have our will. We still make our choices.
A few days back, Eric Varghese wrote about the disciples, “you understand that all the great work was only possible if they followed the leading and guiding of the Holy Spirit in their life. They were so in tune with the Holy Spirit as He guided.”

I believe my good friend Mike would be in good Christian fellowship today if he had relied on the Holy Spirit within him, instead of allowing himself to be dragged down by the feelings within him.

It’s getting ahead of the story, but there came a time when we read that the Spirit left Saul. Sadly, it was time for the Spirit to go, for Saul had given such a preeminent place to his jealousy, there was no place left for the Spirit. 

Friday, April 12, 2013

keep it simple

Written by Matt Lange

Read Numbers 14 and Act 4

Acts 4:12 "Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved."...

Remembering my days of old, I was thinking of how invincible I thought I was. Truth be told it is amazing I am alive today to tell others about it. Anyway my thoughts took me to how I looked for "salvation". We all have our ways of getting through the day, moment or hour. We try whatever is easiest for us and depending on our environment we have different means of "salvation" around us. Following are some examples of "salvation"... money, success at work, friends, drugs, alcohol, sex, cutting others down, exercise, reading, medication, keeping busy and other things. You can fill in whatever word you want.

Do you remember the story of Moses leading the children out of Egypt? They found "salvation" in a man who was a leader. Some believe God was in control, some didn't. For a time those who believed went along with the plan as Moses lead them. After a period of time each individual had their own doubts about this plan and where it was that Moses was leading them. Much like us (or, we like them) as time goes on we tend to forget who is our Provider. Eric has mentioned how easily we forget...

We try to find "salvation" however we can. Rest assured that if we continue to forget the provisions of God, we will be miserable. As it was for the Bible greats, things WILL be tough. It WILL get hard some days. How we handle ourselves as an example to others, is our witness.

How is your belief in Salvation through the Lord Jesus? If we rely on Him, our salvation can be peaceful. I see many Christians forgetting that Salvation involves our present situation. Salvation is our eternity, but it also is involves our lives each day and each hour..

Instead of opinions on how to be a Christian, should we not live in the reality of what Christ has done for us? Personally I can't keep rules and opinions straight in my head. I would rather believe God is Who He says He is. I can rest in my salvation easier that way.

Keep it simple.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

don't be cheap

Read I Samuel 9 and I Peter 3

The servant answered Saul and said, “Here, I have with me a quarter of a shekel of silver. I will give it to the man of God to tell us our way.” I Samuel 9:8
But let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is in God’s sight is very precious. I Peter 3:5

Saul highly commended his young servant for making such a good suggestion that they pay the Prophet Samuel a quarter so he would tell them where Saul’s Father’s donkeys may have gone. An Israeli shekel today is worth about 27 cents. Even though there has been a bit of inflation over the last three thousand years, a quarter of a shekel is a small amount of money. We don’t read if Saul ever offered Samuel the quarter. Hopefully he did not. It would have been an insulting thing to do. Though Scripture tells us the laborer is worthy of his wage, the Lord’s worker is not for hire, especially not at such cheap rates.

Sometimes we think the Lord Himself can be hired. There are cultures that teach that if you pay for so many candles, and if you say so many of a certain phrase, God will get you what you want. Pretty silly. But I wonder if I may be thinking when I give to the Lord’s work that I should be able to expect the Lord to provide me with economic security or maybe some heavenly crowns?

Is there anything we can give to God that is of value? Peter writes that our faith is “more precious than gold.” I Peter 1:7. The writer of Hebrews states, “without faith it is impossible to please him.” Hebrews 11:6 (Or, inversely, with faith, we do please Him.)  

Peter encourages women in their womanly role, “But let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious.” I Peter 3:4 How can a woman, or any person, have that very valuable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit? It only comes as we trust our Lord. It is only when we have faith in our Heavenly Father that we not feel the need to struggle and strive.

The Lord does not want our meager  pay. But He does ask something from each of us, and that is our faith. The Philippian jailer asked Paul, “What must I do to be saved?” Paul told him, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.”  Acts 17:30&31.

And though the Lord is not for hire, He will be entreated. David wrote, “Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to Lord, trust in Him, and He will act.” Psalms 37:4&5