Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Make Them a King- 1 Samuel 8

21 And Samuel heard all the words of the people, and he rehearsed them in the ears of the LORD. 
Samuel warned them but they steadfastly refused to hear him. He gave them room for repentance but they would not.

22 And the LORD said to Samuel, Hearken unto their voice, and make them a king. And Samuel said unto the men of Israel, Go ye every man unto his city.
A refusal to repent before the Lord will eventually be judgment upon yourself. When the Lord finally lets you get your way, you have won the battle but lost the war.

Children do this with their parents.
Wives do this with their husbands.
Men do this with their elders and also in abdicating responsibilities.

All of these evasions of obedience are disguised as obedience, causing the Lord to turn away. He gives you your freedom in the moment, in the rejection of His leadership but the consequence is a growing form of tyranny.
This is why submission is such an important principle. If we learn to submit to God and His earthly authorities, rightly hearing Him and them as they speak God’s Word to us, then we will be in a place of blessing. This submission and the subsequent blessing will look and feel like freedom.
However, our insistence on freedom from God and freedom from our other authorities and responsibilities, feels initially like freedom but results in the litany of tyrannies listed in 1 Samuel 8. This sort of tyranny can and does come from the outside through ungodly substitute authorities. But it also comes from within as we revert to being slaves of sin. Having been set free from sin and made slaves of Christ, why would we assert our freedom from Christ and return to our former master?

Patterns- 1 Samuel 8

Patterns are common in Scripture. We often see the same or similar scene replayed in many different ways. One of the patterns we are seeing in Samuel is the repeated pattern of Israel serving the Lord during the lifetime of the judge that God raises up. God has raised Samuel as a judge, a savior of Israel and Israel responded by renewing covenant with Yahweh to some degree.
         Samuel called them to return to the Lord with all their hearts and to put away the baals and the asthtaroth. The people responded in repentance turning from the idols of the land but it was short lived.
         Samuel has many more days of service with Israel but in this chapter the falling away begins even before the judge dies. The elders gather because Samuel is old. They are concerned about who will lead them when he is dead. They have already rejected Samuel’s sons and for good reason.
         But their hearts are not fully turned to Yahweh. They are still jealous for the wealth and show of the nations and kings and gods that are surrounding them. They are quickly becoming ensnared. Their actions were turned towards the Lord but not their hearts. Their hearts are not faithful and now their eyes and actions are wandering and they are prone to bring God’s judgment for cursing upon themselves again.
         They ask for a king but are not willing to wait for the Lord’s anointed. They desire a king like the nations around them and that is exactly what God gives them in Saul. Saul’s reign looks similar to Israel’s days during this period of Samuel’s judgeship. He looks like a good king at first, only to prove himself unfaithful. He becomes intoxicated with his own power and ends up defying Yahweh and his anointed. His commitment to Yahweh is only as deep as it benefits himself.
         Israel is like that. She speaks as if she wants to honor Yahweh but because her heart is not cleansed, she constantly defiles herself with other gods.

Blessing in the Saints

As I mentioned in the Words of Assurance, the sermon today can cause us to wonder if our hearts are fully turned to the Lord. It is easy to fall into the sin of failure to trust in the Lord for our safety, our security from the world, the flesh and the devil. We put up all sorts of barriers because we do not really fully trust the Lord to take care of us in His way and in His time.
         To the extent that we have been unfaithful and untrusting, we do need to confess and repent and  have our hearts fully renewed and turned to the Lord. But we should do this in Christ. Our answer is not to turn to ourselves, trying to find assurance by our own deeds and our own feelings. Our only assurance is that we are in Jesus. We know this by our love for God and we know our love for God by our love for the brethren. This is one reason why this meal and the way that we do it, looking around, is such a blessing. If we look around at our brothers and sisters, who are also in Christ, and we thank God both for the blessing of putting us in the brethren and for each of the brothers and sisters that are gathered here, this reveals that we do indeed love God and His Church.
This love cannot be here with us without the presence of God’s saving Spirit. So, now, even if the heart is shaken a bit by the presence of remaining sin, look around and rejoice that God’s love has made you a partaker of the blessing of His saints. And in your rejoicing, know that God’s love is directed at you for blessing among those saints.

No Room For Doubt Here

In today’s sermon, there is a call to examine our hearts to see if they are fully turned to the Lord. This examination will no doubt cause many of us, if not all of us, to doubt whether our hearts really are fully turned to the Lord. Disobedience is a trouble-maker. Doubt is a trouble-maker, as well.
         The assurance should come, not based upon how pure your thoughts and feelings are about your introspection, confession or obedience. If you are honest, you can always find shortcomings in any of your religious exercises and experiences. The assurance comes in what you do with your disobedience and doubt.
         You can focus on it in such a way as to only get condemnation. No matter how faithful you are, the sins you commit will rise up to accuse you. The doubt will creep in, like a devil, with its finger pointed at you.
         The answer is to turn to the Father, through the Son by the Spirit. If you confess your sins to God and call upon Jesus to save you from your sins, then He does so. If you put down your doubt by exalting the work of Jesus, then the accuser must be subdued. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.
This is why we stand before the Lord after our confession. We must see that God, Himself, has commanded us to stand up in Christ’s name. In Jesus, you are obedient. In Jesus, you stand before the Father. No room here for more examination of yourself so that you can condemn yourself. No room here for disobedience. No room here for doubt. You are in Jesus and in Him you have found favor with God.

Thursday, September 05, 2013

kings of the Earth

It just so happens that we are on 1 Samuel 8 this week. What happens when you want any king but Jesus? That king will extend his power as far into the heavens, as possible. This will ultimately restrict our freedoms as the king usurps the role of God.

Americanism seeks to replace Jesus with Uncle Sam and it should not surprise us that Sam likes that role very much, thank you, and will not easily relinquish it. You can read about the sorts of things that he is prone to do in 1 Samuel 8. Nothing new under the sun.

The rule of Jesus is not like this. When we submit to Him as our Supreme Authority, He grants freedom from sin and freedom to liberty. Liberty without regeneration is lasciviousness or legalism. But in the regeneration, life in Christ is liberty to do that which is good without the force of outward control. The glory that is the State demands compliance or else. The glory that is in Jesus, creates compliance with the law of God because that law (read Spirit) flows from the regenerate heart of man.

I know that fallen man, even regenerated fallen man, is not able to perfectly fulfill the law of God. There is still a need for abundant and continual grace. If it were not so, then we would be perfect already but that is yet future, in the consummation of all things at the Resurrection from the dead.

Jesus is already there. His body is raised never to die, just as ours will be. Furthermore, the perfected Jesus will raise us as He is, unable to die and unable to sin. There is glory now, and now after, but even more after that!

Obama's War

The opposition to Obama's war is speaking. Is anyone listening?

It is interesting that Obama and his cohorts were strongly opposed to the Bush wars for far less significant reasons than folks ought to now be opposed to Obama's desired actions. At least with the Bush wars, there was some connection to direct terrorism against the United States after 9/11 as well as a long-time enemy in Hussein. Even if you were not in favor of the escalation into Iraq, there was a link between Hussein and the support of suicide bombers. Was that a direct threat to the U.S.? Probably not.

But what direct threat is Assad to the U.S.? Given the grotesque instability of the middle east, does it not make sense to simply let the dogs fight it out instead of attempting to grab the worst one by the ears? How can you tell which one is worse in the midst of the dogfight? Seems like we keep picking the wrong one.

Barak Hussein Obama wants to create a strongman enemy in Assad but to what end? Obama seems to keep picking the side of our currently stated enemies against the newer enemies. He picks Muslim extremists backed by Al-Qaeda links and Muslim Brotherhood ties. That was the case in Egypt, good job Barak, and is clearly now the case in Syria (though John Kerry says only 15-20% of the rebels are the really bad guys), two for two. This makes no sense at all. Maybe Obama's plan is to keep everyone confused on foreign and domestic soil so he can continue his relentless pursuit of socialist politics here at home? Let us pray his strategy, whatever it is, backfires, so that we can all see that the emperor wears no clothes.

This is what Rand Paul had to say about it. http://ideas.time.com/2013/09/04/sen-rand-paul-why-im-voting-no-on-syria/

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

Buchanan Speaks

Pat Buchanan gives some excellent advice here. Will no one listen?

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

Confession, Repentance, Renewal and Blessing

We should not expect the Lord’s favor for blessing without confession, repentance and renewal. This is not something that we can gin up on our own. The Spirit must move in our midst. Granted, the desire for confession and repentance often comes from the powerful word of God. God sends us prophecies in His Word or by the message of a preacher or a friend who speaks the word of God to us. If we are in rebellion and sin, this prophecy helps us begin to see that God’s ways are not our ways.  This word from God, this prophecy, often reveals to us why we are languishing in sin rather than flourishing in blessing.
         But the Word delivered is not enough to return us to blessing, Even confession, by itself, will not get us to God’s blessing. Israel must put away the Baals and the Ashtaroth. When we make idols, images in our minds, of gods that we serve and that serve us, then we are not serving the One and only true God.
         False idols may not be like these ancient idols, images of wood and stone that represent local deities. They might be images of saviors that we have exalted above Yahweh. In our nation, we are erecting such images. The federal government is working hard to replace Jesus. Citizens everywhere are looking to the state to fulfill all their earthly desires. This is a leftist response of godlessness. Many of those on the right look to the prosperity of the free market, pure capitalism and the accumulation of wealth. Certainly, for them, there is salvation in riches. Many Christians are dismayed, not knowing which set of idols to honor.
         But we must reject both the leftist gods and the libertarian, Ayn Randian gods. Only Yahweh is our salvation. Only Jesus is Lord of our nation. Only Jesus is the hope for our future.
         We can also make images of those most important to us and allow those images to compete with God for preeminence. But Jesus says that you must love Him more than father and mother, sister or brother, son or daughter. If we learn to love 'in Christ', this means that we give God the right kind and the right amount of glory. In truth, we can only love properly if we love God more than everything and everyone else.
         If we put anything or anybody on the same level or above our love for God, we will fail to love Him properly AND we will fail in our love for our beloved. We must not love others for their own sakes. If we do this, we will not love them for what is best for them. Only if we love them in Jesus, according to His standards, will our love for them redound to God’s glory, their benefit and our blessing.

Worship is Might

1 Samuel 7:10 And as Samuel was offering up the burnt offering, the Philistines drew near to battle against Israel: but the LORD thundered with a great thunder on that day upon the Philistines, and discomfited them; and they were smitten before Israel. 
            Yahweh thunders against Israel’s enemies as they worship Him. Right worship of Yahweh is an offensive weapon against the enemies of God. This is true in the congregation in covenant renewal worship.

1 Samuel 7- Glory Returning

In the previous chapters, the ark of God is captured and taken into exile into the land of the Philistines. However, Yahweh is not humiliated there. Although the glory of Yahweh had departed from Israel, it had landed heavily upon Philistia. Yahweh single-handedly glorifies Himself among the Philistines until they acknowledge His might and power over their own gods.
The ark is then sent back to Israel and the Spirit of God begins to stir the Israelites to repentance. The ark resides in Kirjath-jearim, the house of Abinidab for twenty years before the people of Israel begin to lament before the Lord.
Samuel is serving as a prophet during this time. We do not have record of his prophecies but no doubt he was preaching repentance to Israel during this time. Israel was serving the baals and the ashtaroth. These are the foreign gods of the Caananites and even the Philistines, their chosen enemies. It is no accident that Yahweh let Israel be defeated by her enemies when Israel had chosen to serve the idols of her enemies. Israel had never fully forsaken Yahweh. Even in the days of Hophni and Phinehas, they had desired the favor of Yahweh. They called upon Yahweh when the Philistines threatened them. The problem was that they viewed Yahweh as another in the long line of so-called gods of the land. They did not honor Him, glorify Him, as the One and only true God.
Yahweh had revealed Himself as the only true God in ages past, in the days of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Joshua and the Judges. Israel had no warrant for serving other gods as if they were powerful in any way. In this sense, Yahweh is a jealous God and will not allow His followers to serve false gods.
This is the first commandment. Thou Shalt have no other gods before me. Thou shalt not make any graven image. Thou shalt not bow down to them or serve them. Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain. Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy.
In this chapter, Israel remembers that Yahweh is the One and only God. As they confess their sins asking His forgiveness, He receives them and His glory begins a return to the land. God raises Samuel up not merely as a prophet, one who speaks the hard words of warning from God but a judge, one who rescues God’s people and speaks the peace and favor of God upon His people.
As the people repent, they regain what they have lost. The Lord returns some of the years the locust has eaten.

Prepared to Eat and Drink

We have prepared our hearts and turned from our sins. When we do this, turning to the Father through the perfect Lamb of God, His Son, we have bold confidence that He hears and receives us. We stand in His presence fully absolved of all our sins and come to Him with the eager expectation of blessing.
         Our entire worship service, from the beginning call, to confession, to hearing the Word, to the seating at the Lord’s Table and the commissioning into the world is a renewal of covenant between God and us. We acknowledge our utter dependence upon Him in all things and He receives us as His own. In this way, God is glorified and He lifts us up in that glory. So, let us eat and drink before Him in peace and blessing.

Abundant Grace

Dear Saints, the Lord speaks peace to us who are in Christ. 

Psalm 90:16-17 
Let thy work appear unto thy servants, 
and thy glory unto their children. 
And let the beauty of the LORD our God be upon us: 
and establish thou the work of our hands upon us; 
yea, the work of our hands establish thou it.

These verses from Psalm 90 come after the Psalmist speaks of days of weariness and trouble. But then God takes that weariness and trouble, some of it through simply living in a fallen world and some of it through our own foolish and sinful choices, and He makes it beautiful. As we walk in Christ, the Father reveals His love to us through all the troubles of life. In fact, those bitter troubles are part of what makes God’s grace so amazingly sweet.
         We stand here in awe before our Holy God. It is true that He is holy and that we are in continual and dire need of His grace. But His abundant grace is exactly what He promises to you in Jesus Christ.
         Romans 8:16-17 16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.