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First Pres Joliet

A Daily Devotional from our faith community @ firstpresjoliet.org

Month

May 2014

Chosen and rejected…why?

saul-reproached-by-samuel

Today’s Reading:  1 Samuel 9, 15:10 (vv 11-23 optional)

We step back a few chapters today to look at Saul.  Soon we will go deeper into the era of the kings…some good and many bad.  So, we pause today to reflect on why Israel demanded a king.  Wait a minute though…Israel already had a king didn’t they?  God was their king.  God was their provider who often sent prophets and judges for leadership challenges – God provided…he was their King.  If you happened to read Ch. 8 for info, you’d find that the leaders of the people of Israel went to Samuel and demanded a king to lead them…they were looking for a change in government.  In reality, they were looking for a way out from the rule of God.  The elders were rejecting Samuel’s leadership.  They were looking for style and clout to keep up with their neighbors…what they didn’t count on was that the style and clout would be for the king’s benefit…and not theirs.

Enter Saul…handsome…the impressive son of an impressive father – you can now start to draw contrasts with David.  Saul is a man who knows how to be obedient to authority – one of those non-negotiables…a king who is not the authority but under the authority of God.  Like David, God chooses Saul.  While Saul is looking for lost donkeys, God is looking for him and so, Samuel anoints Saul and the people of Israel have their first king!

So why include this story?  God had warned the people…in demanding a king, they were rejecting God’s ways…something all too familiar especially among the biblical kings.  We see this lived out in Ch. 15…Saul was never an out and out rebel against God – he did most of what God said.  On a few occasions he substituted his will for God’s…no – there was never absolute defiance…just a nibbling away at the edges of God’s authority.  And it is here where we come to see the difference between Saul and David…and a blueprint for future kings and how they act.

Saul is shown to us throughout 1 Samuel as a man to whom God speaks in promise and command but who then modifies God’s words to suit his own convenience.  God is the one who is rejected and avoided.  Unlike David who made many mistakes, Saul is rejected because he rejected God. We too, make mistakes and have choices…let’s pray that rejecting God is not one of them.  It’s hard sometimes but let’s all look to live strong in God’s authority.

 

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II Samuel 5:1-12; “What God Establishes”

II Samuel 5:1-12 (click on link below)

http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=II+Samuel+5%3A1-12&version=NIV

We see in Davide’s rise to become king over Israel the future seeds of the nations North-South division.  Here in this passage we read that David becomes king over all of Israel.  Notice that in Chapter 2 of II Samuel, David is king over only Judah, the southern portion of Israel.   The Northern tribes at this time were not for David but for one of Saul’s sons. This North and South conflict becomes a reality again once, David’s son, Solomon dies.  But in Chapter 5 of II Samuel David is made king over all of Israel.  For now there is much blessing.

Notice we read that “the Lord had established him as king over Israel and had exalted his kingdom for the sake of his people Israel” (II Samuel 5:12).  God through Samuel had anointed David king years ago and now the people anoint David king  and what God had wanted comes true.

When God establishes something it comes to reality.  How good it is to be the person God desires. How good it is to be involved in the ministry and mission to which God calls us.  David was called to Shepherd the people of Israel and be their ruler for the sake of the people of Israel.  God chose to bless the people, the nation through David’s rule and reign.

Think about what God calls you to do and to be in your ministry.  Are you being faithful to God’s calling?  If so, how is God blessing others through you?

Each one of us has a calling to some type of ministry, that’s some way of serving others as Jesus wants us to serve them.  How will you serve this day?  Who will you bless through your service?

2 Samuel 2:1-11: Don’t be “that co-worker”

l90

2 Samuel 2:1-11

To get my point across we have to go back a little bit.  Aaaall the way back to 1st Samuel 24.  David has already been chosen by God to be the next king.  One problem: Saul is still king.  Not only is Saul still king but he’s a total tyrant.  David hasn’t done anything but make Saul look amazing.  Saul (like us at times) responds with jealousy and tries to kill David.  Saul hunts David down but when David gets a chance to kill Saul (1st Samuel 24) he passes and says: “I can’t touch someone appointed by God.”  The same thing happens again in 1 Samuel 26.

My point is this.  David had multiple opportunities to speed up the events in todays verses. He could have killed Saul and if he had wanted to or the massively popular David could’ve pulled off a coup d’etat.  Instead, he trusts God for his future.  He doesn’t play politics, undermine authority, bad mouth or take advantage of opportunities to make his rival look bad.  Long before I was a youth director I was a line cook.. a janitor.. a Michigan Avenue doorman and a barista.  In all these work enviroments politics and careful flattery/slander were the quickest way to a raise.  David gives us an example for us to follow in managing our work environments and futures;  do it the right way.  God may bless you and you might become the next King of Israel (highly unlikely) or you might get shredded because of your integrity.  David wasn’t too worried and we shouldn’t be either.  Relationship with God is worth it.

More than a stone

1 Samuel 17

david-goliath-rana-ghassan

Is this story of David and Goliath an allegory or the story of a local hero? Is this story more than just the recount of a battle in the annals of Israel? Yes and Yes. I think is both. From a historical point of view we have the precedent of conflicts being solved by appointed champions, rather than a blood bath. And when we concentrate our attention on the characters we see two champions going against each other, and skill with a slingshot prevailing over long hours of training and physical strength. we can make the case that all giants have a weak spot, and we can speak about the quickness of a young warrior vs. an old soldier.

But if we do just that we miss the allegory part of the story, you know the hidden secret. The part where David is more than a soldier, where he is anointed by God, where the spirit of God is with him. If we miss that part we miss the way this story becomes a parallel to our faith.

The fullness of this story though is when the two the historical account and the spiritual intersect, it is at that point that we realize that who we are in our faith and who we are as people go hand in hand. We have heard before: faith without works is dead, and works without faith are nothing to be proud off (I am paraphrasing).

David goes in front of Goliath knowing that God is on his side, but also sure of his skill with the slingshot and his agility. This is a good reminder to all of us that life for us as christian is both faith and preparation, is trust in God and perfecting who we are.

Life is more than a stone, is faith and work. Faith that God is present and will work through the skills, the situations, the things that made us who we are. And the same thing goes for work, the more we do, the more we are looking at who we are and the circumstances reflected in our lives the more we understand faith.

I pray that as David, at least in this instance, we can be masters of both, faith and person.

Be blessed,

Bo M.

 

David is chosen…by God!

lego-samuel-anointing-david

Today’s Reading:  I Samuel 16:1-13 (CEB)

“You can’t judge a book by its cover…”  “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder…”  “Beauty is only skin deep”…Common phrases in our culture – where many judgments are made simply on the way someone looks or dresses.  Usually, these judgments come from a dominating paradigm of an individual, group, business or even generation.  For example, if you didn’t have bell-bottom jeans and earth shoes in the 70’s, you weren’t cool.  There is such a tremendous emphasis in our country on appearance that it affects almost everybody. TV alone, drives us in this direction with ads for the latest miracle diets – take a pill and lose weight – no work needed, exercise and fitness programs abound – even I could have ripped abs like those on the TV!!

“Have no regard for his appearance or stature, because I haven’t selected him. God doesn’t look at things like humans do. Humans see only what is visible to the eyes, but the LORD sees into the heart.”  I wonder how many of us have ever stood before a mirror & wished that we had a different face or a different body or simply looked different….better in the eyes of the culture around us…

Jesus showed us that he looks beyond whether you are too tall or too short or too heavy or too thin rich or poor.  He looks inside the heart & He sees what is there – remember the Pharisees and Sadduces…Zaccheus?…the woman at the well?  God looks into our hearts and what  He is looking for is a heart that will accept His love. It doesn’t make any difference what we look like. He wants a heart ready to receive His love and to reflect His love to others.  And so, God chose David.  Despite all of the problems we know with David, I still think we see David’s heart, what God saw…just look to the Psalms.  

God looks right into the heart.  Maybe later today…stand in front of that mirror again and try to understand what God sees in you…His love is so great that He doesn’t see the imperfections that we see. We are beautiful in God’s sight. He has made us beautiful. Now look again…and ask how God has chosen you to move in others…

I Samuel 2:1-10; “Hope and A Prayer…”

I Samuel 2:1-10 (NIV)

Hannah cries out to the Lord in prayer because she is childless.  She asks God to give her a child, a son, and promises to give him to the Lord to serve God all his days.  Year after year she went with her husband and family to Shiloh to worship.  Still she was childless.  We don’t know how long this lasted but it drove her to tears of despair.

10 In her deep anguish Hannah prayed to the Lord, weeping bitterly. 11 And she made a vow, saying, “Lord Almighty, if you will only look on your servant’s misery and remember me, and not forget your servant but give her a son, then I will give him to the Lord for all the days of his life,…(I Samuel 2:10-11).

Sometimes we pray our best prayers in times of trouble, days of despair, and in a season of sorrow.  We cast ourselves into God’s care and trust the Lord with our tomorrows.

There are times, as with Hannah, when God turns our tears to joy and our despair to hope realized.  The darkness turns to the dawn and once again we live in the light.

We see that with Hannah.  In the passage we read, we see her doxology of praise. She reminds us that God is sovereign.  The Lord God reverses the fortunes of the powerless and poor and defeats the arrogant and the mighty.  God’s strength, will, and way prevails.  That’s so good to hold onto as we hold onto hope in God.

May you experience the prevailing strength and will of God this week in your life.  Hold onto hope and say your prayers.

 

 

1 Samuel 1 – God Nearby

illus-29 1 Samuel 1 The story is heart-breaking; Hannah is childless and tormented. I’ve seen couples brought to their knees from infertility but for Hannah it was a much bigger deal.  In this culture, much of a woman’s value revolved around her ability to have children.  Not only was she barren but she had a co-wife who hated her and flaunted Hannah’s inability to have children. When the family went up to Shiloh to sacrifice, Hannah was overcome by grief and prayed like only the miserable can.  Eli blessed her and sent her home.  What happens next is miraculous; after years of bareness Hannah conceives and gives birth to Samuel. What gets me about this passage is that God cares enough to respond to Hannah’s misery.  Don’t get me wrong, her misery is real and I think we can all relate.  My parents lost one of my brothers at birth; I imagine there were many tearful nights.  But what’s so remarkable to me is that a sovereign God, the one who is responsible for the planets orbiting and the creation of a vast universe would kneel down and give care to a young woman who wants a baby. Sometimes I think that in all of our “Jesus loves me” talk (which is both good and true because He does), we sometimes forget who it is that’s caring for us.  Everyone who encountered God in the Old Testament was left trembling.  The Israelites at Sinai experienced God and told Moses: “…do not have God speak to us or we will die.” Jeremiah writes: “Do I not fill heaven and earth?” declares the Lord.”   What amazes me in this passage is that an all-powerful creator God who both builds and tears down kingdoms would care so deeply for His creation that He would reach down and comfort a grieving young woman. “How unsearchable are His judgments, and His ways past finding out!”

From empty to blessed

Ruth 1:1-22

RuthAndNaomi_HiResNaomi many times gets eclipsed in
the story by Ruth. But there is no doubt in my mind that she is the main character in this story. Her life sets in motion everything that we read later on. From her pain, grief we see hope renewed, we see faith soaring and we see lives of those around her change. Think about it! Without Naomi, Ruth would off been a widow in a land away from the people of God, away from the covenant of family and ultimately away from the promise of God.

Yes, i will give you that Ruth’s attachment to Naomi and her obedience played a factor in her story. But then again Ruth’s story without Naomi could off been just another story of a widow. But when Naomi’s faith meets Ruth open heart that combination sets in motion a series of events that change their destiny and also the history of Israel.

And that brings me to you and me. To all the people who have been Naomi to us, that gave us faith when we were down, that helped us see the hope of tomorrow. For all those people we need to be thankful and recognize their impact on our lives. But we also own them something: being a Naomi too.

I pray that we can all experience the blessing of Naomi, and also extend that to someone who needs a glimpse of God.

 

Be blessed,

Bo M.

Samson and Delilah…

samson and delilah

Today’s Passage:  Judges 16:4-31

Samson, meaning “of the sun”, after 20 years is the last of the judges.  And what a story we have today!  This is the stuff of the movies…Samson and Delilah – 1949, 1996, 2009.

Samson and Delilah…it is really easy for many to pin Samson’s downfall on Delilah – make no mistake, she’s not innocent here but the main point of this story is about Samson and his foibles.  To really understand this you need to remember that Samson’s birth was announced by an angel of the Lord…only a few others fall into this distinctive category – Isaac, John the Baptist and Jesus.  Dedicated from birth to be a Nazarite – dedicated to God…Samson is given supernatural strength from God, to begin the deliverance of the people of Israel from the Philistines.  But, like we read a few days ago, the things we idolize can lead us astray.  Here, it was Samson’s weakness for the Philistine women that did him in. His passion for women was more important to him than God’s expressed will.

Delilah may have been cunning in her actions but the focus of this story is on Samson and, for me the saddest verse in all we read today is this, “But he did not know that the Lord had left him.”  Samson thought his strength was in his hair…he was not able to see his dependence on God’s grace.  Samson saw his strength as entitlement and not as a gift of God’s mercy.  He had a view of God that was “magical”, and idolatrous.

But he did not know that the Lord had left him.”  In the end, though we see the dawning of a new sun…we learn that God would rather forgive than judge and that God indeed saw Samson as a man of faith.  Grace and truth completely and lovingly balanced in this story.  If you need further proof…you will find Samson listed in the “Great Hall of Faith” in the book of Hebrews…When we read through the list of names recorded there, we find that no one in the “hall of faith” was perfect.  Now this…this is something for the movies!

 

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