Thursday, December 9, 2010

Knowing Jesus Means Having Compassion on People," Matthew 14:13-33

Picture a tired and grieving Jesus with His disciples, looking for seclusion, and finally finding it. He had just heard about John the Baptist’s death, and needed a moment alone. He and His disciples boarded a boat on Lake Galilee, pushed off the shore, and at last they would find seclusion.
When they reached the other side of the lake, crowds had anticipated their arrival. Was He disappointed? He had compassion on them. He began to heal their sick.
When evening came, which was 3pm for Jewish people, His disciples said to Him (Paraphrase) “this is our secluded spot we were looking for. We found it first. Send them away so they can buy themselves some food.”
Don’t you love it when people try to get you to do something by suggesting you do something else? The disciples didn’t care about them being fed as much as they cared about themselves resting.
Jesus wanted them to have the same compassion on the crowds, and He replied,
14:16, “They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat.”
“We have here only five loaves of bread and two fish,’ they answered.
“Bring them here to me,” he said.
Jesus directed the people to sit down. Luke tells us He divided them into groups of 50.
Jesus took the food, looked up, gave thanks, and broke the loaves of bread.
One of the most common Jewish blessings for food was, “Blessed art Thou, o Lord our God, King of the Universe, Who brings forth bread from the earth.”
Jesus possibly said that common blessing, thanking God publicly. Then Jesus gave the food to the disciples, until they were passing out food. They would return several times each and Jesus never ran out of food. He made the five loaves and two fish last for 5,000 men, and above that many women and children.
Notice: How many people did Jesus hand the food to in the crowd? None. Jesus handed the food to His disciples, and they handed food to the people.
Jesus wants to work through you to show HIS compassion through your life.
They didn’t just have enough; they had 12 baskets full. One basket for each disciple.
When you commit yourself to serve God by having compassion on people, God will take care of your needs in His way and in His time.

Jesus then sent the disciples in a boat away from that part of the lake, and then He sent the crowds away. He finally had time to rest.
If you’re available to God and watching for peoples’ needs, God will provide times of rest for you. If you avoid peoples’ needs and force times of rest, you will miss the miraculous work that God wants to do through you.
If you're thinking right now, listening to this, "I don't have any spare time now. How will I have any free time if I let people interrupt my schedule?"
If you do it to minister to them, God will take care of you and give you a season of rest in His way and in His time.

Jesus isn’t finished showing compassion. He doesn’t just require you to show compassion as His disciple.
He was by Himself, up on a mountainside praying. 14:23 tells us “when evening came,” possibly meaning the 4th watch of the night (3am-6am). Jesus was alone still in a time or resting and or prayer.
The boat was far from shore, and being “buffeted” by the waves; the wind was against it.
During the fourth watch Jesus came to them, walking on water, having compassion for His disciples caught in a storm.
Peter goes out after Jesus calls him, and Peter takes his focus off Jesus and puts it on the problems.
He cries out “Lord, save me!”
Jesus saved him, then Jesus rebuked him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?”
It is awesome to arrive in the safety of Jesus' hand, but it is terribly uncomfortable to leave the place of security like the boat. It is also terribly difficult sometimes to walk that space between the place of safety and where Jesus commands us to go. Yet, if Peter had stayed focused on Jesus, the story would have ended without Jesus rebuking him. Would you have succeeded?
Not even the greatest of the OT prophets walked on water. Not even deities of other cultures walked on or controlled water. They had religious texts where their gods saved sailors, but none of the other nations' gods dealt with the sea. The sea in ancient near eastern culture was a symbol for chaos and evil.
The only God immune to its appetite of swallowing people, and the only God able to calm it, is Jesus Christ God Almighty!
Matt 14:33, “Those who were in the boat worshipped Him, saying, ‘Truly you are the Son of God.’”
Something else to notice here, that Jesus not only tells you to show others compassion, but He is standing there showing you compassion when you fail.
Knowing Jesus means showing compassion to people. God wants you to do that. He wants YOU to get involved.
What did Jesus say? Matthew 28 records that He told us to make disciples by going into all the world, baptizing them, and teaching them to obey all He has commanded. As we do that He is with us always.
Right now as I write, and later as you read, people are dying and going to hell.
Jesus talked about hell, and how our showing them compassion fits into their eternal destiny. He said in Matthew 16, "I will build My church, and the gates of hell will not stand against it."
In some Jewish writings, Sheol (Gehenna, Hell) is portrayed as a place with many, many gates and layers of gates as you go further in, to keep the damned inside.
Jesus is saying that though their destiny is to be trapped in the painful consequences of their sin forever, My church will liberate them from hell.
That is awesome! He wants you to be a liberator. It starts with having compassion on people.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

The Naaman Principle

In this entry we’re taking a look at the ministry of one of the greatest prophets in the Old Testament, Elisha. God used Elisha to accomplish more miracles than anyone else in the Old Testament; in fact, anyone else in Scripture next to Jesus. Elisha was used to perform fourteen miracles, but our focus is not on him. Our focus is on a non-Israelite, foreign, ungodly man named Naaman. How does this relate to our need to get back on track? You’ve probably figured out the thesis, but read on just to make sure.

The story unfolds in 2 Kings 5. His name means “beautiful or handsome one.” He was the commander of the army of Aram (also called Syria), under king Ben-Hadad I or II.

He was mighty in battle, and God had used him already (whether he knew it or not, we are not told). He came to Israel because he had heard from his servant girl that there was a prophet in Samaria who could cure him of his leprosy.

We’re told that the Lord granted Naaman success in battle. During one of those campaigns, Naaman capture this Israelite slave girl. Sometimes God places His people in positions of lowliness, suffering, humiliation, or forced meekness for His greater purpose. I wonder how many times the slave girl doubted God’s sovereignty. If you’re in a position like this, God still has a purpose for you, just like He intended this unnamed slave girl to direct Naaman towards His prophet, Elisha.

Naaman came from Aram, to Israel, with the blessings of his king. He brought a small treasure to pay to the king of Israel for healing him. King Joram didn’t didn’t see any way for him to be healed, and tore his clothes in distress. Elisha heard of it, and sent word that Naaman should come to Elisha and he would know there was a prophet of God in Israel.

The leader of God’s people, the king, should have known where to find the prophet of God. Instead, he saw Naaman’s approach through his own personal values, namely as a threat to his power. So Elisha texted King Joram just in time, telling him he’d take care of it.

Naaman arrived at the doorway of Elisha’s house with his entourage. Elisha didn’t go out to meet him, but sent a servant telling him to dip in the Jordan River 7 times.

Naaman, expecting to speak with Elisha himself, and expecting more ritual, was furious. His pride was wounded.

(vv. 11-12) “He turned and went off in a rage.”

Sometimes people are upset at God or God’s mouthpiece because they were expecting something different. You probably have faced this as a Christian before. When I was an Associate Pastor in Dallas, TX, one Sunday morning a lady called our church and asked, “Are women allowed to wear pants there?” We were a Baptist church, but not that kind. One of the greatest compliments I’ve heard was a friend telling me, “Nate, when I’m with you, I can’t imagine you as a pastor.” He goes to our church and is an active leader there. He further explained that he had a preconceived idea of pastor as an aloof, anti-social, stoic fossil who loved crowds but hated people.

I hope I don’t ever see one more briefcase-toting, coat and tie wearing, professional occupying his dust-free office, operating a 9-5 workday, preoccupied with programs and ministries as the solutions for sin. We need no more professionals writing how-to books. We need prophets of God, who will tell people not to promote a mosque at ground zero, or to be ashamed of themselves if they’ve never helped the poor while never missing their favorite TV show. We need people who are willing to be slandered as “friend of tax-collectors and sinners,” not excusing Jesus-style ministry in the name of “above reproach” or avoiding “slippery slope” lifestyles.

Naaman didn’t expect to be talked to by a servant, dismissed to wash on what he considered a dirty river. Sometimes the simple message of “believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved,” is insulting to your pride. Sometimes you expect God to acknowledge your physical, mental, or spiritual eliteness. Sometimes you expect God to come to you on your terms, at your time, in your place, and do things your way.

Isaiah 55:9, “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts higher than your thoughts.” Today one of the weaknesses of our churches is trying too hard to meet sinners on their terms. God doesn’t even try hard to meet sinners on their terms and offer compromise. All people must meet God on His terms, which necessitates thinking less of self and more of Him.

We must meet God on His terms. Today He says to you, your best righteous works are not valuable to Him. Only the righteous work of Jesus on the cross, Jesus in the tomb, and Jesus resurrected in the air!

Some people have been disappointed in the church because they believe the church needs to come to them and be more seeker sensitive. That is not God’s plan for His church. I recently read a great list of reasons people don’t attend sports events, if the same excuses applied as are used for leaving church. So here are reasons people leave churches applied to sporting events:

1. Every time I went, they asked me for money.

2. The people with whom I had to sit didn’t seem very friendly.

3. The seats were too hard and uncomfortable.

4. The coach never came to see me.

5. The referee made a decision with which I could not agree.

6. I was sitting with some hypocrites–they only came to see what others were wearing.

7. Some games went into overtime, and I was late getting home.

8. The band played numbers I had never heard before.

9. The games are scheduled when I want to do other things.

10. My parents took me to too many games when I was growing up.

11. Since I read a book on sports, I feel that I know more than the coaches anyway.

12. I don’t want to take my children, because I want them to choose for themselves what sport they like best (Charles R. Swindoll, The Tale of the Tardy Oxcart, s.v. “excuses.”).

God doesn’t want to make a deal with you regarding your cleansing. He doesn’t take bribes, accept acts of penance, or need our offerings in order for us to be healed. It is only by God’s grace—His giving us what we didn’t earn and should not have—that we receive healing.

It is only by God overlooking Naaman’s status as outside the covenant people, that Naaman received God’s mercy. It is only by God overlooking our status as sinful people that we receive God’s mercy. It is only God giving good works, God giving righteousness, God giving all that we are healed. Jesus’ death and resurrection are the only good works that can pay for ultimate healing, and God did that for you. Free of cost!

God has a storehouse of treasure and He wants you to withdraw out of His account, freely!

What happens next with Naaman?

For the second time, his healing is influenced by his servants. It was an Israelite servant girl who gave him the idea of going to Elisha, and now God again used the humble to influence the mighty.

Notice what Elisha did and did not do:

He left Naaman alone for God to deal with him. Too many times, when we tell someone about Jesus and the need to follow Him, we break out our spiritual first aid kit and rush like a paranoid field medic to the scene. We believe we will be the influencing force for their salvation. God is the only influence for salvation.

Elisha did not chase Naaman. God did. Pastors, church leaders, those who have family members who reject Christ, and all who have told the Gospel while being mocked and jeered: God is still able to save, and He’s the only one who ever could in the first place. Don’t chase. Let God chase.

As this applies to winnowing out the wheat of our churches and making disciples like Jesus Christ, there will be seed that falls by the wayside, on thorns, on rocky soil, and on fertile soil. The fertile soil seed is what we must focus on. If some drop off and decide to reject the tightening of the screws, and the harder practice so that the chance of winning the game is greater, then we must let God chase them.

Naaman put his pride aside and followed Elisha’s advice.

What was his response? After seeing the results he praised God!

5:15, “Now I know that there is no God in all the world except in Israel.”

Gehazi, witnessing God work, could only think of the money Elisha was passing up. Gehazi desired the money, and snuck later and lied, taking the money. Gehazi then lied to Elisha about taking the money. God cursed Gehazi with leprosy and all his descendants.

Note: Sometimes the people on the outside understand more about God than the people on the inside

What does this have to do with following Jesus? Jesus gave a commentary on this passage, saying it applied to Himself.

Turn to Luke 4. Jesus told us why God healed Naaman and Naaman came to recognize the One True God, about how God chose to heal a foreigner and be glorified through that man’s healing rather than healing one of the many leprous Israelites. Why did God choose to do this? Jesus said it was because of the very reason Nazareth rejected Him.

Luke 4:22–27 (READ IT)

Part 1 of what Jesus said is this:

If God’s people reject Him, God will go outside and find those who are faithful.

If you tell God “No,” God will find another to take your place who is willing to say, “Yes.”

Romans 11 tells us about this happening to Israel, God’s chosen people:

Romans 11:7–12 (READ IT)

Today we stand at a crossroads, where we have the decision Naaman had.

Are we similar today to the Israel Elisha lived in? Are God’s people today giving into idols and derailed from the mission of the church?

Jesus said to go into all the world and make disciples of every nation. Are you doing that?

America used to be the most involved in training and sending people for the Kingdom work. Now God is doing that work in Asian churches, and African churches, and South American churches. Before America, it was England who birthed William Carey, Hudson Taylor, and the 1800’s missionary movement that sent thousands all over the world.

Today South Korea has the largest church the Yoida Full Gospel Church which averages 800,000 people in attendance every Sunday. That means nothing, unless there is more. And there is. They purchased a mountain called Prayer Mountain, where anyone can come and pray. They send out missionaries all over the world and send out church planters all over the world.

In China, the underground church is training missionaries to go into Muslim countries that are closed. This is a closed country where Christians are persecuted, sending missionaries to countries where Christians are persecuted.

What are you doing with all the comforts and freedom you have?

We can:

1) throw away the words of God Who is saying to do something different and possibly uncomfortable

2) accept what is an unexpected word from God in an unexpected way

We can trust that God really does want you to take seriously Jesus’ requirements for following Him.

Part 2 of what Jesus said about Naaman is this:

Jesus had a habit of stirring the pot. He could have walked out of Nazareth with their lipservice approval. But he knew they were telling him what he wanted to hear. Like where we live sometimes. You and I would have to be foolish to believe everything people say about us, especially what people say to me.

#1 question you need to ask is not “What will people think about me?” but “Am I converted?” If you’re saved, then from what? Do you do those old sinful things? If you do, can you really say God saved you from it? John Wesley wrote after years of ministry, that he was not a Christian, but he desperately hoped to become one. Where are the ones who will consider that part of their salvation is their cross?

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Surviving Temptation (Knowing God: David pt 3)

The story of David and Bathsheba is the story of forbidden lust; er, I mean, forbidden love. All because David and Bathsheba did not survive temptation.
Today I want to give you 3 steps for surviving temptation. They are road markers as you walk through your life. You will need to keep this near you every year. If you follow these steps, you will increase your chances of surviving your next encounter with temptation.

David should have been leading his army as most kings did, but he neglected his military responsibility.
Step #1, Be where you are supposed to be
This means when you’re supposed to be at work, be there. When you’re supposed to be with your family, be there. When you’re supposed to be at our worship gathering, be there. When you’re supposed to be at our worship gathering, be there! (you get it) When you’re supposed to be at school, be there! When you are supposed to be in a place of Bible study and prayer, be there. This is so important. David wasn't leading his people as their King as he was supposed to be leading his people. He was laying on his bed, idle, and then walking out on his rooftop.
Discipleship Journal surveyed the most common sins amongst their readers. They found the most common ones were:
1-Materialism, 2-Pride, 3-Self-centeredness, 4-Laziness, 5-Tie between a) Sexual lust, and b) Anger/Bitterness, 6-Envy, 7-Gluttony, 8-Lying
They also found that 81% of survey respondents noted temptations were more potent when they had neglected their time with God; 57% when they were physically tired.
On resisting temptation: 84% said that resisting temptation was accomplished by prayer; 76% said avoiding compromising situations; 66% said with Bible study; 52% said by being accountable to someone.
Are you using your position and free time to be where you are not supposed to be? If so, you are preparing yourself to fall into sin.
Be where you’re supposed to be.

Step #2, Think what you are supposed to think
David’s 2nd problem was that he was not thinking what he was supposed to be thinking. If you’re not where you should be, then neither will your mind be where it should be.
He was restless. In v. 2, he was so restless he got up out of bed and wandered around. That’s when he found trouble.
Has that ever happened to you? Your mind wanders? Late at night, trying to sleep? The best advice I can give you if you can’t sleep is this: If you can’t sleep, don’t count sheep, talk to the shepherd.
David only had to look and a woman was bathing down below. Bathsheba knew she was in the king’s sight, probably in an open courtyard on their property. She had placed herself within David’s sights. Also, in v. 4, we’re told she had purified herself from her uncleanliness, which according to the law meant that she was available.
2 Corinthians 10:5 says, “we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”
There will always be a Bathsheba, out in the open, setting a trap for you to fall into. There will be something you want that you know you shouldn’t have, right within your reach!
Christian men, you’d better set up walls of Bible verses around your mind or your unwalled city will be invaded! Christian women you'd better set up walls around your mind or your unwalled city will be invaded. Proverbs tells us a man without self-control is like a city without walls.
At this point, David should have sent someone to Bathsheba and said, “Don’t bathe outside where I can see you!” But what does he do? He sent someone to get her so he could have her. C. S. Lewis writes, in The Screwtape Letters, when speaking of how the devil can conquer believers, “The long, dull monotonous years of middle-aged prosperity or middle-aged adversity are excellent campaigning weather.”
You will be tempted sometime in the future to let your mind wander, and if you do, it probably will not land in a safe place.
Satan is the Master of the suckerpunch, disguised as an angel of light. He will lie to you. And you will convince yourself that you are innocently bringing glory to God! But then you will discover guilt, shame, and pain!
Proverbs 5 warns against the temptation of sin saying, “Keep to a path far from her, do not go near the door of her house, lest you give your best strength to others and your years to one who is cruel, lest strangers feast on your wealth and your toil enrich another man’s house. At the end of your life you will groan, when your flesh and body are spent. You will say, ‘How I hate discipline! How my heart spurned correction! I would not obey my teachers or listen to my instructors. I have come to the brink of utter ruin in the midst of the whole assembly.” You’ll say “I blew it! I wasted my life!” Don’t waste your life. Think what you are supposed to think.
God’s purpose for your mind is for you to be transformed by the renewing of your mind, one Bible verse at a time. Today, it’s 2 Cor 10:5. When you memorize that, move onto another one.

So here we go: Be where you're supposed to ___, and Think what you're supposed to ___, and step #3, in surviving temptation is Do what you are supposed to ___. That's right, do.
David violated all three principles. The author of 2 Samuel 11 records 4 times where David sent for something. In Hebrew, it is the word sha-lah, “to send, or dispatch,” a right of the King or authority figure. The excitement of sin filled David and he used the authority of his position to satisfy his lust and cover up his sin.
You want to yell into the cedar walls of David’s palace, “Stop! Don’t do it!” But he did it. David fell headfirst into sin.
One of my pastor friends in Mexico, Pastor David, and I would go out for supplies sometimes. And whenever we saw a pretty girl, short David in his high pitched voice would nudge me and say, “Fuego, fuego!” “Fire, fire!”
Not this David. He got burned.
Notice how quickly King David acted. He didn’t consult anyone, or spend time romancing Bathsheba, but it was a one night stand, based on what he could get out of it. God had told Samuel that David was a man after His own heart. Up until now, in Scripture he was a godly man. 4 chapters earlier, God made a permanent promise with him that he would always have an heir on the throne. David defeated the giant Goliath and thousands of Philistines and was the most feared warrior king in the middle east! Yet he could not conquer himself.
Here he was, showing he was also a depraved sinner, even though he was used by God. After discovering that Bathsheba was pregnant with David’s child, David had her husband killed, and for 9 months lived a lie.
I watched this second hand many years ago. One of my friends fell morally about 10 years ago, and I’ll never forget walking with him through the process of public confession and removal from his ministry.
Have you given into sin? Have you followed David’s bad example? You can say you don’t feel bad, but that’s just a cover up. If you believe in God, and are a follower of Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit lives in you and has been needling you.
David wrote about his experience of torture in Psalm 32, saying, “When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer.”
You will be tempted to cover up your sin. The greatest tool for unplugging Christians from church is secret sin.
But there is Good news:
1st piece of good news—There is a way out. I love it how for everything bad that the world offers the Bible has good news to counter it! There is good news for temptation and sin today!
It’s called Doing what you’re supposed to do. 1 Cor 10:13 says, “but God is faithful, Who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with every temptation will provide a way of escape so you can bear it.”
God has always has a fire exit for His people! He always has a lifeboat that you can find! You can never say, “God abandoned me!” He will provide a way of escape. Awesome!
When tempted you need to look for the way of escape. Next time, Pray for the way out!
I’m not here this morning to beat you up because of your sin, because I have sinned too. I will sin sometime in the future too.
2nd piece of good news—2 Samuel 12, when David was met by God through his servant Nathan the Prophet. David finally did what he was supposed to do.
Your sin can be forgiven. In 2 Samuel 12:13, David says, “I have sinned against the Lord.” What was God’s response? “The Lord has taken away your sin.” There were consequences, but God had taken away his sin.
Doing what you need to do means saying to God “I have sinned,” and you will find that God is “slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness.” God word says, “as far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.” God’s word says, “Come, let us reason together, though your sins are as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow.” God’s word says, “if we confess our sin, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sin and cleanse us from all unrighteousness!”
David sent and used his authority, but God sent His word by His authority through His prophet to talk about God’s omnipotence! All powerful! He can forgive any sin, as many times as you commit it. If you need to feel clean and healed, and get back on your feet, God sent Jesus to die for not one, two, three, four, 20, 100 of your sins, but all of your sin! And He will forgive you. Do you believe this? In Psalm 32, David didn’t end on a bad note. He writes, “Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the Lord’—and You forgave the guilt of my sin.” Come to God this morning. Be where you should be, Think, and Do what you are supposed to think, and do. Come to God.

A Heart of Obedience (Knowing God: David pt 1)

Where is your heart? A boy in children’s hospital, was very disobedient. The nurses couldn’t’ control him. One day a visitor had the idea to use positive reinforcement. She said, “If you are good for a week, I’ll give you a dime when I come again.” A week later, she stood before his bed. The boy was hiding underneath his covers. “I’ll tell you what,’ she said, “I won’t ask the nurses if you behaved. You must tell me yourself. Do you deserve the dime?” After a moment’s pause, a small voice from among the sheets said, “Gimme a penny.”

Today we're looking at David, but you can’t fully appreciate King David until you know about King Saul. So, I want to tell you a summary of the end of King Saul’s reign and the beginning of David’s, and then some principles we can glean from this story.

The main idea as you scroll down this blog is right here: If you obey God, it shows you have a heart for God, and you will be blessed by God.

Meet Saul.

1 Samuel 9 describes him as “an impressive young man without equal among the Israelites—a head taller than any of the others.” In the original language this communicates the idea that Saul was great, and the language in 9:1 for Kish being a “man of standing” most likely means wealthy, successful, prosperous—a powerful man. Saul too was impressive. Unusually tall. He was outwardly everything Israel wanted in a king. Money, power, strength, easy to look at.
At the 2009 Political Awards, I mean “Academy Awards,” this was the same tone as when Sean Penn talked about his admiration of the newly elected president Barak Obama, calling him an articulate man and other compliments, gaining applause from the audience. He looks good, acts good, and we can physically follow him.
Saul had the opportunity to be Israel’s greatest king, but he blew it. He was anointed by God, and told by Samuel in 1 Samuel 10:8, “Go down ahead of me to Gilgal. I will surely come down to you to sacrifice burnt offerings, but you must wait seven days until I come to you and tell you what you are to do.” After his anointing, Saul was filled with the Spirit and prophesied, and 11:6, “the Spirit of God came upon him in power,” and Saul led God’s people to victory!
Disobedience #1, But Saul disobeyed God!
How? He Offered sacrifices instead of waiting for Samuel (1 Sam 13:11–14)
What’s the big deal? That was Saul’s response. He said, “When I saw that the men were scattering, and that you did not come at the set time, and that the Philistines were assembling at Micmash, I thought, ‘Now the Philistines will come down against me at Gilgal, and I have not sought the Lord’s favor.’ So I felt compelled to offer the burnt offering.”
Principle #1 Sometimes you don’t understand why you should obey God. But you still should obey Him.
At this point, Samuel rebuked Saul and said, “the Lord has sought out a man after his own heart and appointed him leader of his people, because you have not kept the Lord’s command.”
Disobeying God costs you.

Disobedience #2: He spared the evil King instead of obeying God and being God’s instrument of judgment (1 Sam 15:20–23)
Principle #2, obedience is more important to God than sacrifice
Sometimes you won’t see the reason to obey God. But you should anyway. Saul’s actions showed he didn’t value the things God values; he accepted the anointing by God, but then ruled for his own reasons. Again, in 1 Samuel 15:20–21, Saul made excuses for his direct disobedience.
Matthew Henry, in his comment on this passage, gives one explanation of why people swat away God’s commands and disobey Him. “God bade him kill all, and yet he puts in among the instances of his obedience that he brought Agag alive, which he though was as good as if he had killed him. Thus carnal deceitful hearts think to excuse themselves from God’s commandments with their own equivalents.”
Read 1 Samuel 15:22–23
When you disobey God, you reveal your heart is not like His. Like hijacking an airplane, so people hijack God’s plan and twist it into their own. It should be more like the military. An order is given from the Commander-in-chief, and we as His soldiers obey Him!
How can you check if you are obeying God? Ask yourself:
Is God the most important person in your life?
Do you love others? Like other people?
Do you do what God tells you to do through the Bible?

These are important questions to spend a minute and think about. So please, pause, and stop everything to answer them.

I also decided to write down why people disobey God, and not just "those guys," but why "WE" disobey God. Here's a list I came up with:
1. God is not seen, and His presence not always felt, and He gives grace instead of having a lightning bolt to zap people with.
2. It’s hard to obey God. It makes you feel uncomfortable
3. Obeying God separates you from people who want nothing to do with God.
4. In the end, if a person will not obey God, it is because your heart is not like His, there is no motivation, there is no fear of God. You have forgotten that your God is a consuming Fire. You have forgotten that your God is going to be all that is left of life as you know it, and you will need to cling to Him because every plant, animal, and person will depend directly on Him! You have forgotten that He made you, and He bought you!
If I have just described you, you need to confess that attitude, wake up, and know what God wants and then do it! That’s it! No more, add nothing to it. Just that.

There are just 2 choices before us when we read about Saul versus David. You are already walking down one of two paths. Either you are deciding when you will obey God, and when you won’t, and keeping God in a corner, or
Choice #2, you are Knowing God more, and then obeying Him.

Now the opposite, let’s meet David, described as the least of all Jesse’s sons, relegated to the grunt work, and “ruddy,” or reddish and rugged. It is the same word used to describe Esau when he was born, with his red hair all over his body. The Hebrew literally says David has “beautiful eyes.” Not from a powerful family, but a family of shepherds. Not a head taller, but young enough to be a boy, probably teenage years or young adult (though this is debated. He will marry not long into the future, and we will find out later on, when he challenges Goliath, that he fought a lion and bear and beat them).

God said in 1 Samuel 13:14, “. . . the Lord has sought out a man after his own heart and appointed him leader of his people, because you have not kept the lord’s command.” Still following David's story, he was anointed by God, through Samuel, just like Saul(1 Sam 16:7).

Saul and David had the same prophet, same anointing, same promise of a kingdom that would last forever, but different attitudes of obedience, because of different hearts!
Don’t miss that! It’s the most important part of this story!

David courageously fought Goliath; he did not attack Saul though many thought he should have. Let me continue just a little longer to show how David was a man of honor and integrity.
1. David asked God if he should fight certain battles and obeyed God
2. 1 Samuel 23:2 against the Philistines
3. 1 Samuel 30 outnumbered to rescue his family
4. 2 Samuel 5:19, 23, and God told him to wait until they heard the sound of marching in the top of the trees, then to act promptly.
When you obey God you reveal that you have a heart like His.

Wrapping up, here are some principles to walk away with:

1. Sometimes you don’t see the reason why you should obey God but you should still obey Him.
a. Disobeying God costs you.
b. Sometimes you don’t see the reason why you should obey God.
c. Sometimes you have a better plan than God does, but you don't.
If you are living that story, please trust God, that His plan is a better one.
2. Obedience is more important to God than sacrifice
3. When you disobey God, you reveal your heart is not like His.
4. When you obey God, you reveal that your heart IS like His. You value the things that God values!
If you're asking, "What should I do?"
Ask yourself:
i. Are there areas of your life where you are not obeying God?
ii. Are you daily obeying Him?
Check on this too:
i. Is God the most important person in your life?
ii. Do you love others?
iii. Do you do what God tells you to do through the Bible?

Did God bless David for his obedience? Big time! 2 Sam 7:8–17, the Davidic Covenant, the promise that one of David’s heirs would be the Messiah of Israel!
We have seen through Saul and David's comparisons, that if you obey God, it shows you have a heart like God's, and you will be blessed by God.
Why not obey God today?

God is Calling Your Name (Knowing God: Samuel)

Emily and I took our family to Menard’s recently and had one of those parental nightmares. After I scoured the shelves for the right size screws and bolts to fix some new furniture in preparation for our new baby, I looked down and Tommy was gone. I quickly checked the next aisle, and the next, and eventually Trinity and I made a long 30 min lap around half of the huge store, calling his name in the garden center, the wood, insulation, everywhere! I called my wife on my cell phone and realized he had found her. I was exhausted after that. Every possible evil intent a kidnapper could have flooded through my brain and I batted them away, telling God I was trusting Him. Tommy didn’t answer me because he was too far away to hear me.
Another scary event happened to some friends of ours. They lost their daughter for 2hrs. The parents had similar reactions, and called her name, and the authorities were involved, until finally she came out from hiding. When they called, she didn’t recognize their voices because she had fallen asleep. She wasn't listening.
I'm not trying to terrify you, but one more story. My daughter was riding her bike last week and took off for the busy road as fast as she could. I called her, yelling for her to stop, but she didn’t listen. I called her again and she didn’t listen, a third time, and I heard my voice echo off the buildings near her, and knew she could hear me, but she did not obey.
Are all of these stories to tell you about terrifying children’s tales? Am I trying to frighten you? These stories all have a piece of what not to do when God calls your name. God called a young boy named Samuel, and Samuel was not too far away to hear Him, he was not asleep when his name was called (he recognized it), and when he knew God was calling him, he obeyed.
God will call you if you belong to Him, and tell you what to do. The question is: will you be ready?

Today you can leave here taking with you three helpful steps for how to respond when God is calling your name.
We look at 1 Samuel 3:1–3 and the story of a young man whose barren mother Hannah dedicated him to serve the Lord when he was a toddler. Samuel was a student of Eli, the priest at Shiloh, where the ark of the covenant was kept in the tabernacle. One of the commands of the Law was that the priests were to continually keep the lamp candles burning in the tabernacle all night long, and Samuel was near the ark and the lamp, most likely keeping it going. (READ IT, 1 Samuel 3:1-3)

First, in verses 1–3 Samuel was close to God. How do you prepare to respond when God calls your name? The answer is to sit close to God. In order to hear God’s voice, you need to be close to Him. Just like Samuel was near the ark, and Eli was farther away (a description of his spiritual state), you need to position yourself close to God.
In those days it meant being near the visible presence of the Tabernacle and the ark. Today it means spending time devoted to God in private worship and public worship. You need to participate on Sundays, but also at your home, when you work, with your family, with your friends. You need to always be near to God.
Notice it was rare to hear God’s voice in those days. Sometimes people get impatient when they wait and wait and wait and don’t hear anything. Samuel was persistent to do his duty for worship and stay as close to God as anyone could physically be!
At the carnival a couple weeks ago, it was busy and people were shouting and trying to get you to try their rides and buy their goods, and unless you were close to them, you couldn’t hear them.
My son Tommy couldn’t hear me calling him (for his own good), because he was too far away!
(A) Sit close to God. This week, tomorrow, give God 15 minutes of reading your Bible and 15 minutes of prayer. You will be on the road to a beginner’s level of daily devotions and putting yourself closer to Him. This is a step towards understanding Him and obeying Him.

The second step for responding when God calls, is to look what Samuel did when he heard a voice. He asked the man of God if he was calling his name. He looked in the right place for clarification that God was calling him. Even though Eli was not perfect, he got this one right. He knew how to hear God, even if he didn’t obey God.
So, if you're keeping track, write down #2, Make sure it is God speaking to you. In order to know what God wants, you need to verify God’s voice.
There are all kinds of voices out there, like New Age voices, liberal political voices, conservative political voices, socialist voices, capitalist voices, cutting edge voices, traditional voices, talk show voices, pleasing and enticing voices, scary and violent voices, and you need to know how God speaks to you. This only comes through practice of listening to Him. It involves discipline. Most of us won’t hear audible voices. Most of us will hear God through reading His word and prayer and doing that every day. Most of us will get affirmation from another person who is also following Jesus.
Like my friend whose daughter could not respond because she was asleep, so some of you are sleep in your faith! You don’t hear God because you don’t care about the Bible! You don’t value spending time with the one who died for your sin on the cross! You don’t hear because you don’t bother to verify Him. The first book that comes out saying, “God wants every Christian to be a millionaire” makes you foam at the mouth. The radio speaker says, “the world will end in 2012” and you say, “Must be God” without verifying!
Ask anyone who has served in the military and they will tell you about the training and discipline in learning the important lesson of distinguishing the right voice from the false ones. They must learn to hear only their drill instructor or the distraction could cost someone their life.
Are you that focused and waiting to hear from God? If you don't know what He sounds like, that's your first item of business. Isolate His voice from the rest.
How can we be sure it is God speaking?
This is my threefold test I use when making decisions and think I'm hearing God speaking to me: a) does it agree with the Bible? If it does not, then it isn't God. If it does, then continue to question "B." B) does the Spirit confirm it in prayer? When you pray, if you don't feel the Spirit confirming your decision, move to question "c." C) does your church family confirm it? If everyone else you know who is following Jesus thinks you're crazy, then maybe you are! But if the answer to all three questions was "Yes, yes, yes," then most likely God is calling you to do something.
And let me add one more, very important part of finding God's will. Unless you have salvation through Jesus Christ, you will never hear God’s voice. The Holy Spirit in your heart is how God communicates today, and through that same Spirit opening your eyes as you read the Bible that God Himself put here for your benefit. Unless you have faith in Jesus alone that He paid for your sin through dying on the cross and rising again, and unless you believe that, unless you follow Him, you might as well give up on ever knowing God’s will for your life.
Or you can come to Him now, confess every sin, believe in His death and resurrection (I love the resurrection), and commit to follow Him and begin to know His will. Pray that today and tell Him, and the Bible says you are saved from hell and going to heaven, and going in first class. The Bible says the angels throw a party for you if you trust in Jesus Christ today! (Luke 15:7, 10)

Again, if the answer to those three above questions was "Yes, yes, yes," then you'd better do what you think God is telling you to do. That leads to the final step, which is what happens when Eli directs Samuel. Eli tells him the next time he hears a voice calling, "Samuel, Samuel!" to reply, "Speak Lord, for Your servant is listening."
So #3, Say yes when you’re sure it is God speaking. Knowing God means saying yes to whatever God will say in the future.
That takes guts! My daughter did not do that, and suffered a serious consequence. So too, you who call yourself a Christian and ignore the conviction of the Holy Spirit of God day after day, week after week, weekend after weekend, you are also going to suffer a serious consequence.
Look at the text. God says his name twice, like God did on the mountain where Abraham sacrificed Isaac (really himself) to God, and like God said to Moses at the burning bush. God said to Samuel, the most prominent male prophet since Moses, “Samuel, Samuel!”
Did Samuel wait to hear what God wanted before he said yes? Did he? No. He said yes first. Samuel gave God a blank check, and said, “I’m Yours! Here I am!” Samuel obeyed. Will you? Will you say yes when you’re sure it is God speaking?

Saying yes to God will cost you. Samuel was not always popular, he was sometimes lonely, he had fame, but he didn’t have many friends. He had an angry King Saul to contend with, and had to do some brutal, hard work. If you’re not afraid of that, go ahead and tell God “Speak to me Lord, for Your servant is listening.”
So pray to God to speak to you, as you make time to be close to Him. Make sure it's Him speaking when you think you hear something. Finally, say, "Yes."

Monday, August 16, 2010

Father's Day 2010: Building a Godly House

A man walked out of his truck, into the hardware store, and asked “Can I get some 4 X 2’s?” the lady at the counter said, “Excuse me? Don’t you mean 2 X 4’s?” The man shook his head, “No, I mean 4 X 2’s.” She shook her head, “I think you mean 2 X 4’s” The confused man held up his finger, and went back to his truck, talked with the guys in the truck for a few minutes, and then came back to the store. He said, “Yeah, I mean 2 X 4’s.” the lady asked, “How long do you need ‘em?” The man replied, “We’re gonna need ‘em for a loooooong time.”

I wouldn’t want to go near that house they were building, would you? God has guidelines for building a spiritual house in your home. Fathers, believe it or not, have a huge role to play in building a Godly house.
Fathers need direction, help on how to love their wives handle their kids. You want them to grow up right, be godly, think of you as Superman. This Bible tells you how to do that

The Bible gives us a foundational verse in Joshua 24:15, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”
The Bible also gives us Framing verses, in Deuteronomy 6:4, which are repeated in the Old and New Testaments in different ways. Let’s read Deuteronomy 6:4–9 (READ IT)

Today you’ll finish reading this with parts for building a Godly house. Just as a physical house has the frame, the interior, and the exterior (pardon my overly simplistic reference, it makes good preaching) so spiritually you want that for your house.
The first section of your house found in Deuteronomy 6 is this: Your Identity should be to love God and obey God with everything you are. Fathers are supposed to love God with every part of their lives (READ 6:4-6). Heart and soul communicate in Hebrew the mental and emotional, the conscious and the unconscious, the entire non-physical part of you. That means you should be loving God with your thoughts, your feelings, your plans, your ideas, your jokes, what you listen to, and what words you use. It should be your identity.
In the Riverside service baptism, those of us who went into the mighty Pec came out drenched. After changing into new clothes, those of us who passed out water bottles in the parade did so during a downpoor! Drenched! Many of us experienced this! Just as if you came out of a river or a clean bath, so you should be drenched with God and His commandments.
Is that true of you? Or do you love something more than God?
Your identity should reflect your title of “Christian.” Tom Landry said when he was coach of the Dallas Cowboys, that the first quality they looked for in every athlete they drafted was character. If character wasn’t there, then it didn’t matter how talented or big the player was, their bad character would eventually ruin everything else.
Christian fathers, is your character godly? When you’re alone, are you God’s man? Is God a part of your Sunday ritual, or is God always the one making your decisions?
Build a Godly house. Your Identity should be to love God and obey God with everything you are.

If you have never surrendered yourself to God—this is first. Prime Directive. Numero Uno. Put down the housebuilding tools and step away from the foundation. You need to start over, because without God your house will definitely fall. The Bible says “Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it.” You need to make sure you have believed in Jesus’ giving his life for your sin, and you own that sin, and you own that death and resurrection, and God will live in you and give you the ability to love and obey Him. If you’re trying to obey God or love God without knowing Jesus Christ, you are chasing your tail! If you are trying to build a Godly house without following Jesus Christ, your house will fall down. So rebuild the foundation starting with following Jesus' teachings.

Now to the interior of your Godly house. Your impression on your children should be for them to follow your example and love and obey God. You need to Immerse them in God’s ways. (READ 6:7-9). Fathers are supposed to immerse their children in God’s commandments. It means in every aspect of your life, fathers, you are supposed to speak to and demonstrate obedience and submission to God. That means telling your kids why you do what you do. Why do you bring your kids to church Sundays? Why don’t you watch dirty movies on TV (besides your wife getting mad at you)? Why do you pray before you eat? Why do you read your Bible? Why do you cry when we’re singing about what Jesus Christ did on the cross for your sin? Tell your kids.
I'm not just saying this, but trying to do this myself and it's hard sometimes. But we keep trying. When I was trying to tell my daughter about her need to follow Jesus and find salvation in Him, I brought up the truth about hell. After she understood what hell was, and who ends up there, she was silent for a long time. Then she said, “I don’t want to go to hello.” After I tried clarifying, "No, it's called 'hell,'" she paused again, then said, "I don't want to go to hell today." I'm not perfect, but like you men who are trying, so I'm trying too to explain God's fingerprints in creation as we are walking and talking about animals and plants, stars, moon, and how God made it all.
Notice “Hear o Israel!” this is not just for fathers, but this is something parents do together.
Wives, let the father lead, and don’t quit when he starts. Why should the father lead? A) if you lead, the man won’t participate; B) your kids need to see their father’s faith to help increase their chances of having a stronger faith. (Pause while I receive the stones from the angry ones, thinking I'm neanderthal--to those I urge you to research a father's presence for adolescents and its influence in adult children. You'll agree with me that the role of a father is the single most important factor in a child becoming an emotionally healthy person).
The best way you can teach your kids God’s love is by loving them.

How do kids spell L.O.V.E.? T.I.M.E.
And train your children without anger! Resist that temptation! Go outside and have a stress break (like smoke break)—but leave if you’re about to blow!
The Bible says to leave your father and mother and cleave to your wife, and sometimes you have to leave your children or else you feel like cleaving them alright! Ephesians 6:1-4 (READ IT) Without anger. Colossians 3:21 also says, “Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged.”
Love your children.
A Spanish father and son had a terrible, argumentative relationship. The son finally ran away. The father searched and searched for him, but couldn’t find him. Finally he put an ad in the paper, saying, “Dear Paco, meet me in front of this newspaper office at noon on Saturday. All is forgiven. I love you, your Father.” On Saturday at noon, Paco showed up. So did 800 other men named Paco, all looking for forgiveness and love from their fathers.
Do you get what God wants for you as a father? To love Him and demonstrate that to your children.

We've got the foundation and frame, the interior, and now the exterior. Yes! That means landscaping (my forte). Your impression on the world should be for them to follow your example and love and obey God too. Fathers are supposed to publicly show their love for God and obedience to Him. READ 6:8-9) What does that mean? All of those external markings and symbols mean one thing; that is a public reminder to yourself and a public testimony that God owns you, and you belong to Him.
Like signing your name to the title to a vehicle, or some people tattoo their lover’s name on their arm—it shows ownership and faithfulness!
This means fathers should not set the example that your love and obedience to God are things to be ashamed of.
Like the flower must open up in order to spread pollen and reproduce itself, so you must man up in order to see your children one day follow God!
Men, will you build a Godly house? Or will you refuse God's power and try it on your own?

in Jesus,

True Freedom, Romans 8

After being kicked out of the worship service, this faithful pastor remained in the same city and reached a new group of people. They had terrible problems with sin, but the pastor struggled daily, teaching them and discipling them. These problems made him think of a church that he heard good things about, but had never visited. He longed to visit the church where a group of Christians from different races gathered together and needed guidance that he could give, but he had made a commitment to go on a mission trip. So until he could finish the missions trip and visit this other church, he wrote them a letter to help guide their theology. He put it into the hands of a deaconess, sent her off, and while Phoebe carried the letter to Rome, the pastor—the Apostle Paul—would never make it to that Roman Church. He finished taking money to Jerusalem for the famine, but was arrested, and though he did go to Rome, it was to a prison. How ironic that he spent 3 chapters of the letter to the church in Rome on sin’s slavery of us, our attempts to wrestle free of it, and the freedom that comes finally through Jesus Christ.

Today I want to tell you what Apostle Paul wrote to Rome from Corinth about how you can find freedom. You’ll see in verses 1–4 how True Freedom comes through Jesus Christ, and staying free comes through Jesus Christ.
1)Find True Freedom through Jesus Christ (1–2)
(READ IT) True Freedom is freedom from sin and its punishment comes from Jesus Christ
There is freedom from condemnation of sin and it comes through Jesus Christ
But someone is asking, “Freedom from what?” GOOD QUESTION
The “therefore” in verse 1 means look before chapter 8 in order to understand chapter 8. Chapters 6–7 established that we are hopelessly bound by sin all our lives.
What does all this mean? The truth about our history is that we all have a common ancestor—not Cromagnum man, but Adam and Eve. They sinned, and fell from grace, and we are stuck in sin and unable to find freedom from doing bad and feeling bad. But when you believe in Jesus Christ’s death on your cross, and Him getting up from your grave, the punishment of sin is gone forever! No more paying for your sins! No more condemnation!
You can break free of prison, you can break free of a bad job, you can get freedom from an abusive relationship, but all of those things are temporary freedom in this temporary life.
The only freedom you can experience that is forever is freedom in Jesus Christ from sin by believing in His death for you, and His resurrection so you will rise again. Then, and only then, will you be in the land of the free!
Isaiah 61:1, “The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners.”
Jesus said in Luke 4, after reading this from a scroll in a Nazareth synagogue worship setting, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing,” (Luke 4:21). Jesus came to bring freedom! You can be free. The birdcage has been opened and He holds out his hand and welcomes you to come out!
We don’t understand how good we have it in America, freedom to believe, speak, and act as we desire. It costs a lot of lives! As of February 23, 2010, 4,379 U. S. troops had been killed in Iraq since the 2003 Operation began.
Freedom from our destination of sin was free for us, but it cost God the life of His Son Jesus Christ!
When I was a student at Moody Bible Institute, our education was tuition free. It cost, but not nearly as much as it should have, thanks to generous donors. Once, a professor heard us talking about how great this was, and corrected us. He said we shouldn't say our education is tuition free because it isn't. It was free for us, but our freedom cost someone else. Instead, we should refer to it as a tuition paid education. With your salvation, it was not free. It was only free for you.
The opportunity for you to Find Freedom from sin fractured the Trinity! The error in human judgment cost God the Son His life because He loves you. Jesus came to set people free from sin. Why? God has a better life for humanity than to leave us in our sin.
That means when you see an oil spill, a terrible economy, political and spiritual leaders failing morally, friends and families breaking apart because of sin, that there is hope for a better life in Jesus Christ!
If you’re waiting for political leaders to change the world for the better, you’ll wait a long time.
If you’re waiting for everything to be like the good old days, you’ll be waiting a long time.
If you’re waiting for a little more money, that husband or wife to change, that car to die so you can buy another, that house to get fixed—if anything in this world is your hope for happiness you’ll be waiting a long time!
But if you’re counting on Jesus of Nazareth, and His freedom, and counting on releasing your life to His hands, you can find peace and happiness today!
Like tired soldier whose heavy pack is suddenly lifted, so Jesus Christ will lift the load of sin today! In time the guilt will fade, and you will experience freedom.
Find Freedom in Jesus Christ

Not only can you find freedom through Jesus Christ, but . . .
2) Staying Free comes through Jesus Christ (v. 3–4)
That which freed us and continues to free us from sin and its results is the new law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus, not the law of sin and death (v. 2–3)
This word for “set you free” is eleutherosen, that means “to cause someone or something to be free from domination.” That word is used also in John 8:32, “then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free,” v. 36, “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”
It means Jesus Christ not only sets us free once, but is the One who sets us free daily from the domination of our own sin. Vv. 3–4 (READ IT)
Remember “therefore” in v. 1? It’s there because of chapters 6–7. 7:16 tells us, “And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good.” When you sin, you feel guilty, and you desire to be better. How do you know when you’re acting “better”? God’s Law.
V. 7:17, “As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me.”
V. 21–25a (READ IT) “Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!”
Although the Law of God is perfect (Psalm 119), reviving the soul, we made it weak by staining it with our sinful hands (8:3), and no matter how many good works you do, they can’t affect your salvation. All of humanity's best isn't enough, and humanity made God's law weak due to infecting it with sin.
Recently I heard of a terrorist plot discovered and disarmed in NY. Russian spies recently were caught and rounded up in Texas. These people were planning on hijacking the nation! When you take your salvation back into your own hands, you are hijacking the new life God is trying to build in you!
This is practical, because everyone sins. Daily, weekly, we slip and sin or deliberately do what we should not. Then we feel guilty (unless it’s such a habit that you’re callous), and then you desire to “fix it” by fasting, giving more money, punishing yourself somehow, doing something good for someone else.
But you didn’t save yourself, and you can’t erase sin by doing good! But Jesus Christ can fix our sin not only the day we’re saved, but the day afterwards, the month after that, 10 years later, and forever!
That’s what this means in Romans 8:4, “so that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not walk according to the sinful nature, but according to the Spirit.”
So how do we live in true freedom? Verse 4 says to walk in the Spirit.
Gal 5:16, “So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature.” WALK IN THE SPIRIT, AND HAVE FAITH IN JESUS CHRIST. Again, it was not possible any other way except by God, and we owe God an enormous debt because God did it!
A little boy once made a wooden boat, working and slaving away until he thought it was the image he had in his mind. He put it into the water, and a wind carried it unexpectedly away from him, and kept carrying it away until he lost sight of it. The boat didn't turn up anywhere. Months went by of him looking for it. Finally, near Christmas time, he spied it in a toy store window. It had his specific marks of craftsmanship and planing. He raced into the store and told the owner, "That's my boat! Where did you find it?" The owner replied, "I'm sorry, but that's my boat. If you want it, you'll have to pay for it." The price was high, but the boy paid it without thinking. As he left the store, with a smile that couldn't be erased, the boy carressed the boat and said, "You’re twice mine. Mine because I made you, and now, mine because I bought you.”
That is exactly what God did to each person who found freedom in Jesus Christ. When you came to Him and threw your future into His lap, His word says in Luke 15:7 and 10 that the angels in heaven throw a party over every lost sinner who repents! God achieved what the best standard of achievement could not—freedom from sin and its condemnation
Maintaining holiness is not within our power; it is available through the power of the Holy Spirit in you. But you can’t fix it yourself.
We try to fix our own lives, and that’s why it doesn’t work. The spiral of sin keeps going downward, because as we sin and try to fix our salvation ourselves, we can’t do it. So we try harder. Then we can’t do that, so we try harder.
No matter how hard you try, you will never plant a neat row of corn on a paved highway in the middle of Darlington! In order to grow corn on Highway 23, you need to completely change the nature of the ground! Tear it up! Out with the old asphalt, and in with the new, fertile soil!
God did it! He completely changed your heart by His grace so that you heard and understood His offer of salvation. That’s why you need to depend on the Holy Spirit in you when you sin, and confess it to God, and walk by the Spirit.
The reason some of you are hurting is because you are caught in sin and like an animal in a trap you got into it but can’t get out. The more you are in there, the worse it gets, and now you’ve lost hope. You say, “I can’t fix it. I don’t know how I’m going to make it. I, I, I, I, I!”
Christian, God didn’t save you to abandon you. He’s waiting for you to call to Him “Help!”
Like a child learning to walk, who needs to be picked up because he falls, so you need to be picked up. God wants to, and reaches out His hands every time we fall.
Verse 4, “that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in . . .” who? “in us!” You! Me! Every true Christian since this Bible was written!

What will you do? What should you do? Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. Call on Him today, and tell God “I want the freedom that comes through Jesus Christ.” If you are a believer stuck in Romans 7, cry out to Him and depend on Him. Reclaim that freedom in Him.

Please contact us with any prayer requests, questions on this, or needs.
in Jesus,
Nate Whiteside

Monday, June 14, 2010

Revelation 22:17, Quench Your Spiritual Thirst

Have you ever experienced dehydration? During a working trip in Mexico when the weather was consistently near 100 degrees, we worked every morning from 6am-12noon outside, pouring the foundations for buildings, with cement we mixed by hand, into holes we dug with pick axes and shovels. Cutting edge technology. During one of those hot summer days, we were near completing one of our six foot by six foot by six foot holes in the ground, and when everyone else took a coke break, I kept working. I thought I was helping the team, and that if anything, people would think I was really hard working for skipping the break. I was wrong. On the ride home, something terrible happened to me. Suddenly I had a burst of energy, and remember talking really, really fast, and then my legs went numb, and the numbness and tingling went through the rest of my body. I said I needed help, and we stopped the van and pulled off the road by a drink stand. One of our helpers was a nurse, and she realized I was dehydrated, and according to her I was on the verge of heat stroke. She and others hauled me out of the van, and over to the drinking stand, and I drank 5 12 ounce Joya drinks in a row before I started to feel better. It took the whole ride home and the rest of the day to recover, and a lot of fluid later, but I finally did. I was desperate, and dangerously thirsty, and by God’s grace I was satisfied.

Need: Whether or not we’ve been to Mexico, whether or not you’ve worked all day without a break, all of us are thirsty this morning. We are thirsty spiritually for something that will satisfy

Look with me in your Bibles at Revelation 22:17. If you’re looking for a place to satisfy that desperate thirst, here it is. You can be a Christian and still be thirsty, or someone who has never heard about Jesus Christ and be thirsty.
This book of Revelation is just that—John’s vision from Jesus Christ Himself, as he was on an island as a form of imprisonment for his faith in Jesus. He is at the end of his vision and after everything he has seen, both the positives of the blessings of following Jesus that wait for us, and the judgment and suffering that waits for everyone who rejects Jesus, John says, “Come!”
Notice there are three parts to this verse: The Spirit and the Bride, the one who hears, and the one who is thirsty. All of them are different persons, but all of them are thirsty for the same thing—Jesus Christ.
Like a three leaved clover, they all have a life giving stem in common—the life giving Jesus Christ who died and is alive again so you can believe in Him and have that eternal life.
The first ones are the Holy Spirit and the Bride. The Holy Spirit was sent after Jesus went away, in Acts 2, to occupy every person who follows the teaching of Jesus Christ. He groans, in Romans 8, waiting for that time when Jesus will come back. The Holy Spirit’s ministry is to give you guilty feelings when you sin and to give you feelings of assurance when you are obedient to God, to open peoples’ eyes to Jesus Christ, to work through Jesus’ church until He comes! The Holy Spirit waits and desires for Jesus to come.
The Bride—which is the New Testament’s way of describing the Church (Eph 5). It says, “And the Spirit and the Bride say ‘Come!’” This is in response to Jesus’ words in verse 12 before, where he said, “Look, I am coming soon!” This is an informational statement, meaning “this is what the Holy Spirit and the Church do—they desire that Jesus Christ will come, and come soon!”
It means God the Holy Spirit and the history of Christians for 2,000 years have wanted this! Jesus is coming back in order to fix everything broken, heal, help, and to make “all things new.”
It means Jesus is coming back
A few days ago I was in charge of making my kids' lunch. I decided to have peanutbutter sandwiches and the first compliment I found was fudge. So I told my kids we were going to have peanutbutter and fudge sandwiches. You should have seen their faces! They were so excited because they were about to receive peanutbutter and fudge. Some of them tasted the fudge and were even more excited. That's expectation, and how we should feel about Jesus coming back!

The second group spoken of is “the one who hears,” and instead of John saying “people who hear say come,”
The word “say” here is a command. John commands the people who hear everything he has said to also desire Jesus Christ to come back. John wrote about the churches needing to be faithful, about how there will be evil to sway us away from following God, about how your faith will be tested, about how terrible judgment waits for people who decide not to follow Jesus, about how we who follow Jesus must endure to the end (the one who endures to the end will be saved) and then says, “let the one who hears say ‘Come!’”
In the Bible, Deuteronomy 6 is called “The Great Shema” among the Jewish people, and it says (quote), and when they said, “the one who hears” they meant “the one who hears and obeys.” Jesus said, “let him who has an ear, let him hear!” He meant “the one who hears and obeys.” John knew that all of you who are sitting here today would not understand or appreciate what he is saying. So he says, “let him who hears and obeys” say come!
Jesus said in John 7, “let the one who believes in me drink. Just as the Scripture says, ‘From within him will flow rivers of living water.’”
This is the picture of someone who has drank from the water of life Jesus has to offer and turns around, waving his hands, saying, Come! Come on! Trust me, it works!
A man was walking in the desert, and came to a jug of water by an old well pump. The jug had a sign on it that said, “you have to pour the full jug of water into the pump in order to get fresh, cool, clean water out.” The man hesitated, debating whether he should take what he knew was drinkable water (though it probably was old and had bacteria), or take a risk so he could get clean, pure water. He took the risk. He poured the water into the pump to prime it, and the jug was soon empty. He pulled the pump handle and worked it up and down, but nothing came out. Again he pumped it, and nothing. Again, nothing. Finally, he was thinking it was a hoax--a cruel trick, when he pumped one more time and water began dripping. He pumped again, and more water slowly trickled out. He pumped again and it became a steady flow, and the more he pumped the bigger it got until it ran all over the desert ground, and he filled up the jug and drank, and drank, and drank until he couldn't drink anymore. He filled up the jug one more time, put the cork on it, and took a pen (don't ask where he got a pen in the desert--just work with me) he wrote on the jug, “It works! Trust me!”

We who have tasted and know should say, "Hey! It works! Trust me!"
Desiring Jesus to come back is the natural outcome of a follower of Jesus.
The ones who follow Jesus, believing in His death and resurrection have had their thirst quenched, but haven’t drank enough! Because life has a way of making us thirsty for God! We try to find all kinds of things that satisfy, but only God satisfies.
Have you become satisfied with what little water you have received? Do you want Jesus to come back more than anything? Do you want His healing? His power? His new life?

3) The third group of people John appeals to are the people who thirst, and haven’t yet discovered that Jesus Christ is the ONLY way to relieve your thirst. This third part is for those who don’t yet have Jesus to quench their thirst, but they are thirsty.
What does God say in response to you when you need help? When you can’t make it? He says, “Come!”
In the Bible, God has always said, “Come” to those who are thirsty and needy.
The Lord said to Noah, “Come into the ark with you and all your household.”
In Exodus 32:26, Moses said, “Whoever is for the Lord, come to me!”
In Isaiah 1:18, God says, “Come now, and let us reason together, says the Lord, though your sins are as scarlet, they will be as white as snow.”
Jesus said to his disciples when he called them, “Come to me!”
Jesus said to go to the highways and byways and compel people to “Come in”
Now, Jesus says in Revelation, “Come! Come! Come! Come!” “I am the bread of life, so come! I am the water that you can drink from forever, so come! I am the comfort, the peace, the love, the awesome party you’ve been waiting for! Come! I am the father, who welcomes every rebellious son or daughter home and says, “Throw a party, he’s back! She’s home! Come!”
Like in Mexico, there was no doubt that something was wrong with me. I didn’t know what until the nurse started handing me drinks.
You, who don’t believe in Jesus Christ, you are desperately thirsty, and know that something is wrong with you! But you don’t know what. You don’t know it, but the thing that is wrong is there is a hole inside of you that is shaped like the 1st Century carpenter from Nazareth in Israel. It’s a thirst that water can’t quench, that only by giving up your life to Jesus Christ can you find this water of life!
At the end of Revelation, Jesus speaks again, and says, “Come! Come, all who are thirsty!” Do you hear his cry, see his hands with nail holes in them, see his feet and side, the head with deep thorn scars?
Are you looking for a high that will last longer than a bottle of brandy or roll of weed, or a weekend of sleeping around? Have you tried your best but keep coming up with emptiness? Are you lonely? You don’t know it, but you long for that water of life.
What did Jesus say, “And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who wants it take the water of life free of charge.”
If you’ve never understood until now that you can have eternal life simply by believing in Jesus’ death and resurrection, and that He paid what you had to pay so you can have life with Him, and you want to believe in Him and have that life, then pray now and tell him.

Knowing God, Ruth

It was a cold day at Sunset Lodge in Michigan, and nearly 100 teens were gathered for our annual winter retreat. I was one of the teens listening to the speaker as he urged us to remain pure and godly, and he said something that shaped my entire dating life. He said to pray for your future wife, asking God to protect her, keep her pure, and make her more like Christ. From that point on I prayed that prayer every day. While I waited, I prayed, and allowed God to lead me to the woman I eventually married. After we were married, we had Trinity, and when Trinity was a little over a year, we wanted to have a second child. We again had to wait, because (for reasons we still don’t know) for a time we could not have anymore children. We came to the point of adoption, and began to discuss options with those who had already gone through a successful adoption process, and while we waited we prayed, and then God allowed us to have another child—Tommy.

You are waiting for something today. Either you are waiting on God for someone to marry, someone to call your child, the right job to open up, enough money for medical expenses, a cure for a sickness, someone who needs Jesus to come to Him, a friend or relative who is making bad decisions to make right ones, or world peace. Everyone is waiting for something to happen! While we wait—you must trust in God!

Today we’ll see 4 Lessons from Ruth as a model for what you can do while you wait for God

Ruth is someone who we should not even be talking about, an unlikely hero from an unlikely region—Moab, an unlikely gender—female. Our story opens with Ruth having married Mahlon, son of Elimelech and Naomi, from the 200 person town of Bethlehem. Mahlon and his parents, along with his brother Chilion, traveled from Bethlehem to Moab, going at least 50 miles around the Dead Sea to find food during a time of famine. Even though they were close geographically, it was possible because of the landscape for one area to have plenty while another had famine. In 1931, the same thing happened in that region, where Bethlehem had famine while the other side of the Dead Sea had plenty. In the land of Moab, Ruth and Mahlon remained married for 10 years until Mahlon, his father, and his brother all died. Ruth was a widow with only her mother-in-law and sister-in-law. So Ruth and her mother-in-law, Naomi, heard that God had provided for His people (1:6) and so she said goodbye, and Ruth’s sister-in-law decided to stay behind. But we’re told with very strong Hebrew language that Ruth “clung to” Naomi, with a strong, unconditional love. Ruth made a strong statement of faith and dependence on God, despite her desperate situation, saying “Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people, and your God my God,” (1:16).

The first Lesson we can learn from Ruth, is while you wait for God, love people.
1) Love people unconditionally
God shows His unconditional love to His people, who are supposed to show it to others
Ruth took a step of faith by clinging to Naomi, disowning everything and trusting in Naomi’s God, and helping Naomi. God showed His hesed for Naomi in 2:20 through Boaz providing for Ruth and Naomi. So the way God shows His unconditional love for people is many times through other people!
It means that when you are hurting, suffering, praying, begging God for help, continue to have others in mind and devote yourself to loving others. If we stop loving others because we feel bad, there will never be a time when we love each other.
It’s like your family, how you stick together, stand up for each other, defend each other, give of yourself to each other—God’s people should be like that to their family, church family, and even those who aren’t Christian.
Who has God put in your path who is also hurting? Love them.

The second lesson we learn from Ruth is not only to love others unconditionally, but to:
2) Lean on God
God has a redeemer for those who decide to trust in Him, so trust in Him!
Leaning on God does not mean sitting still. In fact, Psalm 46:10 says, “Be still and know that I am God,” but doesn’t mean being sedentary or lazy. It means stop trying to do things your way and do things God’s way! Ruth did what the law provided for them—she gleaned in the fields of grain, picking up the leftover grain that fell as the harvesters cut it down.
Boaz noticed her, and her work ethic, and offered her better grain, more grain, and protection. Ruth met Boaz, who was kind to her and also trusted in God
While she waited for God to provide, Ruth did not just sit still, seek free money or handouts, or give in to laziness. Ruth worked in the fields gleaning grain in order to do what she could.
Leaning on God means we do our best and after you’ve done everything you can do, leave the rest up to God! Leave room for God! It means when your money runs out, your sin overflows, and you’re lonely and discouraged, you should stretch out to God and lean on Him!
Remember the words from that song, “Lean on me, when you’re not strong, I’ll take your hand, I’ll help you carry on,” is not just for one another, but for God! Lean on God more than anyone or anything else!
A few weeks ago Trinity and I were playing with helicopter seeds from a maple tree. We decided to take a few seeds and plant them in a pot of dirt I mixed together, and then we watered the seeds in. A few days later, someone accidentally took most of the dirt out of the pot, and Trinity was sad that the seeds wouldn’t grow. Two days ago, we noticed a healthy 4 inch maple shoot sticking up out of that pot. That’s perseverance!
You can be exactly like that, as you trust in God, despite life’s problems, in spite of people taking things from you, in spite of bad decisions, in spite of obstacles, you can still grow if you lean on God! God can provide everything you need!
Lean on God by trusting Him while you wait and persevere. Don’t give up! God has a redeemer for you who trust in Him! Now is the time when people need to see your faith in God. Now is the time people need to see a Christian who endures suffering! Now is the time when the world full of violence, fighting, crime, sexual perversion, abuse, broken families, crumbling nations, weak economics—now is the time they need to see that Jesus Christ didn’t just die on the cross for your sin once upon a time, and rise from the dead once upon a time, but He is alive today and giving strength today, and you have hope today in Him, and you know that you know that you know that you know you have eternal life, and an abundant life now! That’s leaning on God!
Steven Curtis Chapman came out with an album on November last year, called "Beauty From Ashes." The secular music industry praised it more highly than a Christian Contemporary artist’s album has been praised in a long time. Why? Because it was about how he still believed in God even though he lost his five year old daughter. The entire album is the story of his grief, worry, pain, joy, and hope. Leaning on God

3) Leap in faith by asking the redeemer to save you
when people want God’s redemption, they must take a step of faith
Ruth took a leap of faith in order to find redemption, by going to the threshing floor at night and proposing to Boaz. Read what happens in chatper 3 (3:1-18, skim). Ruth had already taken refuge under God’s wings (2:12) and Boaz noticed it. Now she knew Boaz was a redeemer, and Naomi commanded her to pursue it, and she did!
When birds are in a nest, there comes a time when they need one day to take a leap of faith! Don’t’ stay in the nest forever, you eventually have to go out in faith.

4)Let God work and be redeemed
God redeems those who trust in Him for redemption
Boaz showed unconditional love towards Ruth and Redeemed Ruth. But beyond Boaz, God was the One who orchestrated this marriage. God worked so that Ruth had been married for 10 years and hadn’t had any children before her husband died, and that must have hurt. God had planned for Ruth—someone who wasn’t supposed to be accepted in God’s community—to marry Boaz (someone who did not have to redeem Ruth) in order to provide for Ruth and Naomi, in order to provide for the line of King David (Israel’s greatest king and leader to this day), and in order to provide a Messiah for the world! Ruth 4 tells us how Ruth’s lineage led to David, and Matthew 1:5 shows us David was an ancestor of Jesus Christ.
This means that when you let God work to save you from your problems, you get better results than when you come up with a solution that is ungodly. This means that after you worked
Ruth’s act of faith
You may not need to be redeemed for salvation, but someone today does! And they are waiting to see if you will Love, Lean, Leap, and Let God work and bless you.

Nichole Nordeman sang a song "Brave," where she said "I am small and I speak when I'm spoken to, but I'm willing to give it all for you . . . so long status quo, I think I just let go, You make me want to be brave."
While you wait for God, love people, lean on God, leap in faith into God’s hands, and let God work.

4 Changes for Knowing God in an Ungodly Culture, pt 2

In his prime, Mike was sought after by Six Flags Great America and Walt Disney for writing music group performances, like the show Glee. In the late 1980’s, if you went to Six Flags Great America, you could catch a show or musical written and sometimes performed by Mike and his group. He was called to the ministry, and God used his music talent and athleticism to reach hundreds of young people for Christ, and to lead God’s people in inspiring worship every Sunday. I worked with him in praise and worship, and with teen ministries for several years. When I went to Moody, he was one of the only ones who kept in touch with me and encouraged me to continue in my call to the ministry. Unfortunately, one day Mike revealed some sin that had crept in, and ended up resigning. We were shocked and devastated, and it was an ugly church-split situation. Mike had everything going for him with his talent and skill, and yet spiritually he had become weak and gave into stealing. I love him still very, very much, but it caught up to him.
If you remember, we’re studying Samson in Judges 16. So far, we have said:
1) Change your lifestyle, before God changes it for you
If you don’t live for God, sometimes God will cause problems so you will start to live for Him.
When God’s people accept an ungodly culture, sometimes God causes dissension between His people and unbelievers in order to free His people from them.

2) Confess your sin, while God is patient
When God doesn’t punish you for sin, and still uses you, it isn’t because He thinks your sin is okay. It’s because He’s giving you a chance to repent.
God’s patience is not the same as God’s forgiveness

Follow the downward spiral with me, and see that in Judges 16:1-3, Samson continued his life of immorality.
Keep going and he meets Delilah, who, after her fourth attempt to seduce him into telling his secret, finally gets it out of him. Delilah is a Philistines woman (idol worshipper), and Samson not only wants a woman without marriage, but an ungodly woman. The Bible says that the first two attempts to get Samson’s secret to his strength came from the rulers of the Philistines, who supplied Delilah with the thongs and rope to tie up Samson, and offered her 1,100 shekels (28 lbs) of silver per ruler if she could subdue him. Knowing there were 5 top leaders of the Philistines, that would be 5,500 shekels, which was 550 times the annual wage of the average Philistine. If the annual wage were $25,000, Delilah would have been offered $15 million to seduce and subdue Samson. She could not resist.
Delilah was the driver the last two attempts, using everything in her power to get Samson to tell his secret, and finally succeeding. On the day she lulled him into her lap and shaved his head. Judges 16:18-21 tells us (READ IT)

I want to say two more truths about Samson and then I’m done.
3) Consider godly character as more valuable than anything else

God doesn’t care about your physical abilities or appearance as much as He cares about your character and conduct. It’s the motives that will be judged one day!
It means that though Samson had unmatched physical strength, it wasn’t enough!
God cares about the inside. Samson was unmatched physically, the most feared Israelite by the Philistine superpower of his region. He was the war hero, the mvp, the Olympic gold medalist, the NBA superstar, the hockey mvp, all of it! Yet spiritually he was weaker than a pee wee toddler just learning to play ball.
It means you can be the most handsome, beautiful, strong, fast, most skilled, but if the inside is full of ungodliness, in God’s eyes you are not handsome, beautiful, strong, fast, or the most skilled. Remember what Paul told Timothy in 1 Timothy 4:8, “for bodily discipline is of little profit, but godliness is profitable for all things, since it holds promise for the present life, and also for the life to come.”
God cares more about the inside of you than He does about the outside of you. God cares more about WHO you are, than WHAT you do for a career, or HOW MUCH money you make, or HOW MANY hours a week you work, or WHERE you came from.
This is important! Because some of you Christians think your musical or athletic skill is enough to please God, and you don’t care about growing spiritually! That’s just like Samson!
IMAGE: Would you drink out of a cup at a restaurant that was shiny clean on the outside, but dirty on the inside? God wants people who are beautiful on the inside as well as on the outside!
Everything physical is doomed to end one day, but godliness is forever!
Isaiah 40:6, 8, says, “All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flower of the field. The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of God endures forever”
We need a group of Christians who will be the first to make spiritual strength their priority. It starts with disciplining yourself to act more like Jesus and follow His teachings.
Like in the military: Would the Army take someone who just came to a recruiting center and put a gun in their hands and send them to Afghanistan? Would the Milwaukee Brewers take just anyone who could swing a bat and throw a ball and put them on the pitcher’s mound and in the batting rotation (some would say yes). No! In the military, it would be bad for two reasons: 1) the army’s chance of success would drop dramatically without a trained soldier, and 2) your chance of survival would drop dramatically without training.
Spiritually, we are involved in a war far more deadly than anything physical, especially because you can’t see it! It’s a war inside of you, and all around you, where Satan our enemy disguises himself as an agent of light, and your sin nature (and mine) desire to follow the devil’s temptations. And without you spending time training, the mission of Jesus building His church will not benefit from your involvement, and 2) your chances of finishing this life committed to Jesus Christ will also drop drastically.
You need to become familiar with the spiritual disciplines. Here are some basic disciplines that all believers need to be aware of, as listed by Donald Whitney in his book Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life: Bible reading/intake, prayer, worship, evangelism, serving, stewardship, fasting, silence and solitude, journaling what God is doing, and learning about the Christian life. Also, confession, accountability, humility, submission to authority, submission to each other, celebration, affirmation, and sacrifice are necessary. These take a lifetime to master, so you need to start now!
So today decide to search more for God and being like Him than any other goal you have! Young people graduating, if you want a happy life, make knowing Jesus Christ the most important thing in your life. If you get hooked on God, He will show you the good life.
Like Charles H. Spurgeon said
What the hand is to the lute, what the breath is to the flute, what is fragrance to the smell, what the spring is to the well, what the flower is to the bee, that is Jesus Christ to me;
What’s the mother to the child, what the guide in pathless wild, what is oil to troubled wave, what is ransom to the slave, what is water to the sea, that is Jesus Christ to me.

4) The last point I have is in Judges 17. Though Samson had been humiliated, and fell morally and physically, he had one more chance to be redeemed.
He was in the temple of Dagon, mocked and forced to perform for the crowd. With all the rulers in the temple, and 3,000 men and women on the roof (meaning it was full), Samson received God’s strength one more time in Judges 16:28-31. Samson sacrificed his life to glorify God!
4) Create a fresh sacrifice if you have fallen down.
If you have failed to
1) Change your lifestyle before God stirred you; and failed to 2) Confess your sin before God’s patience ran out, and failed to 3) Consider godly character above everything else in the world, then 4) Create a fresh sacrifice
God is slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness, and accepts people who humble themselves and repent.
It means you are never too bad to be used by God. It means God is the God of 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 10th, 100th, 1,000th, infinite chances to change! It means God is not cruel towards people who repent! If Samson could be used again, so can you! God has a purpose even for you in 2010, even after you’ve blown it, so get up, dust yourself off, and cry out to God again.
Like a gentle mother who carefully corrects her children, so God will keep correcting you, and open His arms to use you again.
Don’t get satisfied if you’ve fallen down. Get back up. Create a fresh sacrifice.
Did you hear the key word, though? Sacrifice. What did Samson give up to glorify God? Everything! He is listed in Hebrews 11 as a man of faith who served God, but he didn’t serve God by his life, but by his death. Look at Judges 16:30. It says, “thus he killed many more when he died, than when he lived.”
You, Christian, who are living with everything physical and nothing spiritual, you need to take your life and sacrifice it to God!
I have a box full of musical awards. This box represents 7 years of practicing, performing, playing music for church, school, the Christian Youth Center, Daycamp, jazz band awards in Illinois and Tennessee and in between. I say with Paul in Philippians 3, that “I consider them “skubula” that I may gain Christ and be found in Him!” That I may know Him more!
These physical abilities, mental abilities, looks, talents, and skills, mean nothing if you have no spiritual life! That’s why Jesus is so important, because He is the ONLY one who can give you life!
The great news is, no matter where you have been, you can CREATE A FRESH SACRIFICE!
Samson brought down the temple of Dagon, and all the Philistine rulers. He killed the rule of sin in his culture and in himself by one man’s sacrifice! If you will take this bold step today and throw yourself down at the cross of Jesus Christ, you will not only start clean in your own life, but God will demolish the hold of sin in your life! Do you need to break free from the habit of drinking? Create a fresh sacrifice today! Do you need freedom from the habit of gossip? Slander? Your wild tongue? Hurting yourself or others through physical abuse? Hurting your marriage through verbal abuse? Are you hateful towards your brother? All of these are traps that you can be free from! Throw it all down before Jesus Christ today. First trusting in Him as your savior by believing in His death and resurrection, and 2nd by giving Him the driver’s seat.

1) Change your lifestyle before God stirred you; and failed to 2) Confess your sin before God’s patience ran out, and failed to 3) Consider godly character above everything else in the world, then 4) Create a fresh start
Remember Mike? All talent and skill, without spiritual discipline? He was restored to ministry. He went through the hard work of confession and repentance, and God began using him again.
What about you?