Monday, October 28, 2013

Communion Prayer

Almighty and everlasting Father, we thank You for serving us the body and blood of Christ so that we will be remade in His image. He is all-sufficient to us for life and health and peace. May this meal be a powerful means of grace to us as we partake of Jesus Christ by grace through faith. Amen.

Prayer of Thanksgiving

O Lord our God, we are ever mindful of the abundance that You have poured out on us. We give You thanks. As we offer back to You a portion of what You have given us, we acknowledge that all good gifts come from You. We ask You to continue to give us each day our daily bread. We ask You to pour out Your blessing on us 30, 60 and a 100 fold, according to the measure with which we give and forgive. May the Kingdom of Jesus Christ extend to the very ends of the Earth through the wonder of Your bounty. Amen.

Needy, Humble, Feeble

We thank the Lord for His mercy and forgiveness. He knows that we fall into various sins and that is why He has provided a Savior for us, One who truly takes away the sins of the world. Although we all ought to be men, women and children of integrity, we do not claim to be good on our merits. We know that even in our striving to do right, we do wrong.
         Thus, we are often reminded of our gracious Father’s provision for restoration through Jesus. In Him, we have an Advocate, One who pleads our case before the Father, One who justifies us before all accusers, One who intercedes for us with groans too deep for words.
         God knows our frame and He has provided for us to come to His table, as children, needy, humble, and feeble. He receives us thus but does not leave us in this frail condition. He feeds us. He supports us. He strengthens us. He heals us. And then He sends us into the world as His saints. And for this, too, we give Him the glory.

Prayer of Praise

Based on Psalm 107- O, Lord, Your mercy endures forever. We, the redeemed of the LORD say so, whom You have redeemed from the hand of the enemy and gathered us out of the lands, from the east and from the west, from the north and from the south.  We have no city to dwell in but the city of our God and of His King. Hungry and thirsty, our soul faints within us but we cry unto You, O LORD, in our trouble and You deliver us out of our distresses.  You lead us forth in the right way that we might dwell in Your city.  Oh that men would praise the LORD for His goodness and for His wonderful works to the children of men! For You satisfy the longing soul and fill the hungry soul with goodness. Amen.

Patience Really Is A Virtue

          As we look at Saul today, we realize that impatience can be the cause of great foolishness and serious sin. Many of our sins fall in the category of immaturity. Immaturity is characterized by impatience. The immature want it now. A toddler wants her food, now! A young boy wants respect, now! A young man wants his sex, now! A young woman wants her security, now! And a failure to get the good thing one wants, now, often leads the immature to grasp for it before it is time. Thus, the taking of the thing before its time is mistrust and lack of faith that God will provide that good thing at just the right time.
The young and immature need to learn patience with faith, believing that those good desires will be provided for, by God, at just the right time. And then, as we grow in patience, our faith grows, knowing that God is always faithful and timely in delivering His promises. This keeps us from being foolish and results in our maturity in the faith.
So, let us confess both our impatience and the particular sins we have committed by refusing to wait upon God and His good timing.

Friday, October 25, 2013

I Want it, Now!

The failure to get the good thing one wants, now!, often leads the immature to sinfully grasp for it before God gives it to you in His time.  A toddler wants her food, now! A young boy wants respect, now! A young man wants his sex, now! A young woman wants her security, now! Thus, the taken of the thing before its time is mistrust and lack of faith that God will provide that good thing at just the right time.

Impatient Sins

The life and doings of King Saul reminds us that impatience can be the cause of great foolishness and serious sin.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Only Fear the Lord

1 Sam. 12:24 Only fear the LORD, and serve him in truth with all your heart: for consider how great things he hath done for you.  25 But if ye shall still do wickedly, ye shall be consumed, both ye and your king.
It is interesting that many modern Christians read the Old Testament as the book where God’s people served Him through a legalistic system. But in the New Testament, we serve God without any formalities but only in the Spirit.
It is true that the Old System of sacrifices is over. Those sacrifices all pointed to the One Sacrifice, the Lord Jesus. Now that Jesus has died and risen again, there is no need for any further sacrifices.
But it is untrue to say that an Old Testament saint was vindicated by his religious deeds no matter the condition of his heart. What was true then is also true now. You cannot please God going through the motions of mere religious duty. God has always desired circumcision in the heart. That is, the cutting away of the sins in the heart. We need new hearts so that our very desires are transformed into the desires that please God.
It is true that we see this more clearly now. Man could not accomplish this on his own, so God must give man a king, who is both priest and sacrifice, so that man could be completely forgiven and justified before God. Furthermore, God poured out His Spirit upon us in a superabundant way in the New Covenant.
But even in the era of the Old Covenant, all the way back to Samuel, even before King David, God desired that we should serve Him, that is, worship Him, in truth and from the heart. This reminds us of our New Testament command, “Let those who worship God, worship Him in Spirit and in Truth.” We are to worship God not just in the truth of our system but from the heart, having our spirits stirred within us by His Spirit.
The reason is given here by Samuel; because God has done great things for us. We who see Christ crucified, buried, risen and ruling, have much clearer sight to see what great things God has done for us. Thus, we have every reason to have our hearts stirred within us to worship God in Spirit and in Truth, from the heart, willingly, joyfully.
Let the warning also sound in our ears, 1 Samuel 12:25 But if ye shall still do wickedly, ye shall be consumed, both ye and your king. This has not changed in the New Covenant, either. If we turn back from serving God in Spirit and in Truth, if we disobey the Word, if we do not worship Him only, or turn to false gods through false ideas and idols, if we do not remain steadfast in our allegiance, then we, our nation, our king, shall be consumed.
God’s people stand in the gap for our leaders and our nation. May the Lord stir us up to faithfulness to Him so that for His great name’s sake, He sends blessing to us and to our nation.

Faithful Samuel

1Sam. 12:23 Moreover as for me, God forbid that I should sin against the LORD in ceasing to pray for you: but I will teach you the good and the right way: 
The people may have feared that Samuel would forsake them because they have forsaken Yahweh and Samuel. But that is not Samuel’s reaction. He is the shepherd of Israel and will not abandon the sheep, even if the sheep are in rebellion against him and against God. Like Moses, Samuel is faithful and entreats God on behalf of Israel.

Unfaithfulness Judged

1 Sam. 12:15 But if ye will not obey the voice of the LORD, but rebel against the commandment of the LORD, then shall the hand of the LORD be against you, as it was against your fathers.
But if they disobey, then the hand of the Lord will be against them and not for them. Samuel brings this out directly after reminding them that Yahweh had repeatedly saved them from the hand of their enemies. The insinuation is clear. If they will not serve Yahweh only, then He will deliver them again into the hands of their enemies, which is exactly what happens. Samaria (722 B.C.) and then Jerusalem fall (586 B.C.)

Long Term Faithfulness

It is a great thing to be able to say that you have walked with a people and with God from childhood to greyheadedness. Samuel could say so.
       Yahweh and Samuel make the same claim that they have treated the people with integrity all their days. The people have to admit that Yahweh has treated them fairly and judged them righteously all their days, just as Samuel did. And yet, they did not return that faithfulness to Samuel or to Yahweh.

1 Samuel 12- A Man of Integrity

Samuel officially turns the kingdom over to Saul. Samuel remains the prophet for many years and he still serves as a circuit judge. However, Saul is increasing and Samuel is decreasing. Samuel’s place as the leader of Israel is now officially turned over to Saul.
         Samuel’s speech here is one that we would hope King Saul would be able to make many years from now. Alas, it would not be so. Samuel’s comments here serve to condemn Saul in his behavior as king.
         Samuel did not treat Israel the way that King Saul is going to treat them. He will not have such a particular regard for personal integrity. His treatment of Jonathan and David, as examples of his subjects, are markedly different than the way Samuel treated Israel.
         Even though Israel does not return Samuel’s good treatment of them, Samuel still entreats the Lord on their behalf. He does not return evil for evil. We are reminded of Moses who, when he was mistreated by Israel, fell on his face before God, entreating God on their behalf. Even when Aaron and Miriam treat Moses ill and God’s anger is kindled towards them, Moses falls on his face before Yahweh on their behalf, seeking God’s grace and mercy towards them and all Israel.
         Samuel is a prophet like that prophet. Saul will prove to be otherwise. Even when Jonathan and David treat him well, he acts as if he has been betrayed. Instead of seeking God’s favor for them, he personally lashes out at them, repeatedly casting spears of death in their direction. The godly man, the faithful leader, does not act in this fashion.

Sceptre of Peace

The Lord is gracious and kind to us. Even though we have been like Israel in turning from following the right way, the Lord holds out His sceptre of peace to us. We are in the presence of our great God and King and have not to fear His wrath.
         We are keenly aware that we fall short of God’s glory and know that we cannot stand before Him in our own name, by our own deeds, in our own goodness. Even if we have maintained our integrity, like Samuel, our frequent failures, and our secret sins, rise up menacingly in our minds when we are face to face with the one true Holy God. And we are tempted then to cower in fear.
         But then, God’s grace, we are reminded that we are not standing in His presence in our own name, waiting for Him to post a grade on the paper of our meritorious works. It is not our paper or our work that is being graded but Christ’s faithfulness, and His work is always a perfect pass. We are here in His name, by His deeds, as His friends. Thanks be to God and grace upon grace.

A Life of Integrity

At the end of Samuel’s life, he stood before Israel and offered to come clean for any wrongs that he had committed.  He asked Israel to witness against him if he had stolen anyone’s ox or donkey, if he had defrauded anyone of money, or if he had oppressed anyone at any time or accepted a bribe to sway his judgments.  No one in Israel could call Samuel out for any of these things. Oh, that we had such men in office today who were first of all, honest, and second of all, willing that anyone should call them to accountability for any breach of integrity.
         May we be like Samuel in matters of integrity. Let us not steal, defraud, oppress through domination or fail to judge honestly, fairly and truly. These are all things that Christians should have clear in their minds and be able to stand before God and men in these matters of integrity.
         If we have sinned by stealing, lying for the sake of gain, oppressing the righteous through domination or intimidation, or if we have judged unrighteously through bribes, whether of money or the courting of some other sort of favor, let us confess our sins so that we can stand before God and men with a clear conscience.

Monday, October 14, 2013

King Saul's Good Start

1 Samuel 11:13-15- King Saul's Good Start

13 And Saul said, There shall not a man be put to death this day: for to day the LORD hath wrought salvation in Israel. 
Saul shows real promise. He shows mercy for those who at first resisted him. He gives God the glory and does not take the glory for himself. It seems that Israel might be ready to rise in the power and glory of God.

14 Then said Samuel to the people, Come, and let us go to Gilgal, and renew the kingdom there. 
The Kingdom is to be renewed at Gilgal. In chapter 10:8, Samuel told Saul to go to Gilgal and wait for him for seven days. Saul does so on this occasion. Thus, he is all the more guilty for failing to do so in Chapter 13:8 when he fails to wait the full seven days for Samuel, sacrifices as a priest and has the kingdom rent from him and given to another more worthy of the honor, the shepherd boy, David. He did it right, once, but failed to remember the lesson and remain steadfast.

15 And all the people went to Gilgal; and there they made Saul king before the LORD in Gilgal; and there they sacrificed sacrifices of peace offerings before the LORD; and there Saul and all the men of Israel rejoiced greatly.

         Saul begins well. He shows a righteous anger kindled by God’s Holy Spirit. He reveals wisdom in summoning Israel to fight on behalf of Jabesh. He shows restraint in his threats against those who do not heed his call. The threatened punishment is the loss of an oxen or two, not the forfeit of life. He shows mercy towards his enemies after God grants victory. He gives the honor and glory to Yahweh for the victory that he has gained. In every way, Saul’s beginning is good. There is great promise that God’s blessing will be upon both him and Israel that Saul leads. Although Israel had done wrong in asking for a king, God treated them better than they deserved and gave them a wise, humble, gracious and merciful man to lead the nation. For this, Saul and all the men of Israel rejoiced greatly.

Beginnings are not Endings

Beginnings are not endings. We know King Saul’s end. It was not good. His middle was not good either. He pursued David as an enemy, even though David was his most loyal subject. But Saul was not always bent on doing wickedness. He began well. He showed wisdom, humility, restraint and mercy. Israel had acted wickedly in desiring a king like the kings of the nations and yet God had given them one who had promise to lead Israel in the way of righteousness.
         God turned Saul into another man and Saul initially responds well to the Spirit’s filling and leading. Even his anger is righteously directed at God’s enemies and in defense of God’s people.
         As we think about Saul, let us not simply remember him as a man that did not do God’s will. He was one who started off doing God’s will but got sidetracked through disobedience and found himself in the end the sort of king, like the kings of the nations, who is suspicious, vindictive, vengeful and arrogant. He ends up being nearly crazy with envy.
         But his beginning was not so. Let us guard ourselves against wandering off God’s path bit by bit through disobedience and envy until we end up being God’s enemy.

God's Fire

It is a great blessing to be here in the presence of God, the Father, with the gathered saints, each Lord’s Day. As we think about King Saul’s good start defending God’s people, we are also reminded that he strayed away from God and ended up fighting God’s anointed.
This ought to cause us to take seriously what we do here every week so that we do not drift away from God. Every week, we renew covenant with God. We confess our sins and receive forgiveness. We wait upon God’s prophetic voice through the reading, singing and preaching of the Scriptures. We come before the throne of God when summoned and are seated at His Banqueting Table as friends of God Most High.
If we really do take this seriously, honestly worshipping God through the grace of Jesus and in the power of the Holy Spirit, then God’s fire is constantly kindled in us. Our zeal for the Lord and the Lord’s House, His people, is lit anew each week such that it will never be extinguished. Thus, we have the peace and assurance of knowing that God is with us and we are with God.

Zeal for the Lord's House

Jesus found in the temple those that sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the changers of money sitting:  And when he had made a scourge of small cords, he drove them all out of the temple, and the sheep, and the oxen; and poured out the changers’ money, and overthrew the tables;  And said unto them that sold doves, Take these things hence; make not my Father’s house an house of merchandise. And his disciples remembered that it was written, The zeal of thine house hath eaten me up.
         He possessed a zeal for the Lord’s House. It was at that place where there was to be prayer for the nations, a place from which the kingdom of God was to spread from the River to the Sea. But the caretakers of the House had become negligent, either apathetic to the work of the Lord or quite literally trying to personally profit from the Lord’s House. This failure of obedience and lack of faith made Jesus angry enough to make a scourge and whip people out of the Lord’s House.
         How is your zeal for the Lord’s House? Do you love it here? And do you believe that from here God’s blessings flow to the ends of the Earth? Let us confess any apathy and any greed, and all unbelief as to the victorious Lordship of Jesus. And may the Lord restore unto us a zeal for the Lord’s house.

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Elk Hunting Success

6 x 6 Bull Elk killed in Idaho with my bow on Sept. 14, 2013

Holy Boldness Thanksgiving

Although the Lord is immensely gracious to us, we ought not to take His grace for granted. Saul made that mistake. He had been given a changed heart but he was not steadfast. He wrongly assumed that God’s favor would automatically rest with him. But Saul stumbled in ingratitude, unbelief and disobedience and received his just reward.
         Let it not be so with us who are called by the grace of God in Jesus Christ. We, who have also received changed hearts, must walk in gratitude towards God for His kindness and mercy towards us. We also must continue to believe that the Lord Jesus is given for sinners like us that we might come boldly into the presence of our kind Father clothed in the righteousness of Jesus Christ.
         This holy boldness is not inconsistent with receiving God’s grace in humility. We can do so because we do so with gratitude. Thankfulness keeps our hearts where they should be, humble, and aimed directly at God’s glory through Jesus. This is our faith and for this we thank God.

Our Father's Embrace

Dear Saints, the Lord is like a father who is disappointed when his children fail to heed that which he has taught them. But like a good father, and better, our Heavenly Father is quick to smile upon those who recognize their failures and turn to Him in confession and repentance.
         He is not One to hold a grudge or to feel slighted. He is slow to anger, long-suffering with His children and quick to forgiveness. We, who have failed Him, often feel the weight of our failure. He is so good and we can be so ungrateful. That feeling leads us to repentance. But the promise of forgiveness from our Father ought to be believed as strongly as the reality of His holiness. If He has spoken forgiveness to us, and He has, who are we to question His kindness, His mercy, His grace, His favor? If we did so, we would only need to confess and repent again. Let us not do that. God has spoken. You are forgiven in Jesus Christ. You stand before Him fully dressed in the righteous attire of the risen Son of God. Believe this and feel the weight of guilt and shame fall away as you receive the loving embrace of our gracious Father in Heaven.