Archive for November, 2017

1 Samuel 3:1-4:1 (Part 3 of 3)
The Lord Speaks to Samuel

Preacher’s kids are the worst kind. Have you heard that phrase? I was a preacher’s kid (PK). I grew up as the son of a South Carolina United Methodist Church minister. I have lived in Lamar, SC. I have lived in Anderson, SC once. I have lived in Walhalla, SC. I have lived in Rembert, SC. I have lived in Hartsville, SC. I have lived in Elgin, SC (just outside of Columbia, our state’s capital city). I have lived in Anderson, SC. I have lived in Travelers Rest, SC (just outside of Greenville #yeahthatgreenville), all before I graduated high school. Such is the life of a Methodist minister and his family – moving…a lot. You would think that I would have grown up and gone in the ministry as some PK’s do. My brother did that. Being a Methodist minister in the South Carolina Conference of the church is kind of the family business. My dad was a Methodist minister in South Carolina. My uncle Doug was a Methodist minister in South Carolina. My brother is a Methodist minister in South Carolina. My brother married the daughter of a Methodist minister in South Carolina. It’s the family business. However, I was the black sheep of the family! LOL! I became an accountant. And by my teenage years, I helped add to the mystique of preacher’s kids being the worst kind and as an adult I may have gone to church regularly up until about 1992, it was a nothingness, just something you did. After marrying right after my freshman year in college, I continued to attend my wife’s small 40 people at church on Sunday church that was nothing more than a glorified social club (at least that is what it seemed to me) rather than a place of spiritual challenge and growth in discipleship. So, in those years church was just something I did – nothing that caused me to accept Christ as my Savior or that would challenge me to grow in my faith if I had done so. Church, there. Church, always there. Church, not really meaning anything that just always being there, part of my life.

You would think that growing up in a preacher’s home and all that it entails that I would have grown up more spiritual in nature, more attuned to church, more studious in God’s Word, and most certainly one of those who accepted Christ at a very young age. I may have professed maybe even multiple times as a child that I had accepted Christ as my Savior but I do not ever remember a specific moment of having had the salvation experience. I did not fully experience anything like that until December 2001 when I was 39 years and 4 months old. When I was growing up, church was the family business. We often lived in parsonages that were right next to the church. Churches that my dad served were the playgrounds for me and my brother to entertain ourselves in. On Sundays it was all church business but during the week we would ramble around and through my dad’s churches as if they were daily adventures in a theme park. Back in the days when we were little, re-runs of Star Trek (The Original Series) had captured our imagination. So, of course, my dad’s churches became the Starship Enterprise. We play out episodes of the show in our starship I mean church building. Outside would be the foreign worlds where Star Trek landing parties would go. In general, we were always at the church. Since mom worked full time, Dad was the one to take care of us in the afternoons after school and in the summer time. So, while he would be in his office doing his ministerial duties, we would wander around the church buildings having our adventures. We were always at church. All the time. I guess when you are there all the time you became numb to its glory and power.

Over the years because I was always there, it was no longer special. It was just part of the scenery, the background of a little kid’s life, the background of tweener’s life, the background of a teenager’s life. With what I am about to say, don’t let it come across as though I hate the way I grew up. Don’t ever think that. When I look back on how my parents raised me, I am thankful, oh so thankful, for the way they raised me. My dad, especially, instilled in us to work hard, to know right from wrong, to treat others fairly regardless of who they were, what they looked like, where they came from, or the color of their skin. My dad instilled in us a desire to learn, to love learning, to love school, to love to learn something new every day. My dad taught us about being men. He taught that no matter what men have to work all of their lives with no breaks and that sometimes you get knocked down, things happen where people screw you over, things happen in life that are not fair, but as a man you have to get up, dust yourself off, and keep moving on. He taught us to be good providers for our families and to do whatever it takes to keep our families fed, clothed, and protected. My brother and I have grown up to be productive and generally successful in our respective fields of endeavor. So, don’t get me wrong. I had a good life growing up. I would not take anything for the great times that we had as a family and some of those great father-son moments that I had with my dad. I have no issue with the way I grew up except for one.

I think that my dad kind of ignored the spiritual condition of his children once we got past those little kid years. I think that he thought after those years just being exposed to the life of minister that we would learn, grow, accept Christ, mature as a disciple and all of that by osmosis. It was either that or Dad was so busy with church stuff from the morning in the office until sometimes late in the evenings with meetings, counseling sessions, and any other of a multitude of church activities that occupies the life of a minister. It is more than just your 8 hour a day factory or office worker job. It is from daylight til well into the night pretty much 6 to 7 days a week. A preacher is always on duty. So, when my Dad was home maybe he just wanted to decompress and church was the farthest thing from his mind. Or maybe it was that he didn’t want us to be weird, wacked out religious freaks. Our home after we were little was as secular as yours. As we got older, dad’s career progressed. So, as we got older, every succeeding church that Dad served got bigger. With bigger churches comes more responsibility. It may be all these things combined. But after early childhood, I really don’t remember my dad being our spiritual mentor. He was great in every other aspect of being dad but his spiritual leadership of me and my brother when I reflect back on it was lacking.

As many great preacher’s kids that come out of preacher’s homes that go on to be great assets to the church of Jesus Christ, there are just as many who fall away from the church and/or grow up to be wild childs. I was one who struggled with church. I was one who lived a life of self pursuit. I was one who partied up as a teenager and as an adult. I was one of those PKs. Was it because my dad kind of ignored my spiritual development? Don’t get me wrong, I accept full responsibility for the choices I have made in life but did Dad’s desire to not be a preacher when he got home play a small role in my not coming to Christ until my late 30’s?

As I read through this passage for a third time, that was what I thought of. We can never just think our kids are going to get it. We must be their spiritual leaders. We must not take for granted that just by taking our kids to church that they will be tuned in, turned on, and saved by Jesus Christ. Now, with these thoughts in mind let’s read the passage again this morning, 1 Samuel 3:1-4:1:

3 Meanwhile, the boy Samuel served the Lord by assisting Eli. Now in those days messages from the Lord were very rare, and visions were quite uncommon.

2 One night Eli, who was almost blind by now, had gone to bed. 3 The lamp of God had not yet gone out, and Samuel was sleeping in the Tabernacle[a] near the Ark of God. 4 Suddenly the Lord called out, “Samuel!”

“Yes?” Samuel replied. “What is it?” 5 He got up and ran to Eli. “Here I am. Did you call me?”

“I didn’t call you,” Eli replied. “Go back to bed.” So he did.

6 Then the Lord called out again, “Samuel!”

Again Samuel got up and went to Eli. “Here I am. Did you call me?”

“I didn’t call you, my son,” Eli said. “Go back to bed.”

7 Samuel did not yet know the Lord because he had never had a message from the Lord before. 8 So the Lord called a third time, and once more Samuel got up and went to Eli. “Here I am. Did you call me?”

Then Eli realized it was the Lord who was calling the boy. 9 So he said to Samuel, “Go and lie down again, and if someone calls again, say, ‘Speak, Lord, your servant is listening.’” So Samuel went back to bed.

10 And the Lord came and called as before, “Samuel! Samuel!”

And Samuel replied, “Speak, your servant is listening.”

11 Then the Lord said to Samuel, “I am about to do a shocking thing in Israel. 12 I am going to carry out all my threats against Eli and his family, from beginning to end. 13 I have warned him that judgment is coming upon his family forever, because his sons are blaspheming God[b] and he hasn’t disciplined them. 14 So I have vowed that the sins of Eli and his sons will never be forgiven by sacrifices or offerings.”
Samuel Speaks for the Lord

15 Samuel stayed in bed until morning, then got up and opened the doors of the Tabernacle[c] as usual. He was afraid to tell Eli what the Lord had said to him. 16 But Eli called out to him, “Samuel, my son.”

“Here I am,” Samuel replied.

17 “What did the Lord say to you? Tell me everything. And may God strike you and even kill you if you hide anything from me!” 18 So Samuel told Eli everything; he didn’t hold anything back. “It is the Lord’s will,” Eli replied. “Let him do what he thinks best.”

19 As Samuel grew up, the Lord was with him, and everything Samuel said proved to be reliable. 20 And all Israel, from Dan in the north to Beersheba in the south, knew that Samuel was confirmed as a prophet of the Lord. 21 The Lord continued to appear at Shiloh and gave messages to Samuel there at the Tabernacle.
4 And Samuel’s words went out to all the people of Israel.

Here, in this passage, we see that Eli had spent his entire life in service to God. His responsibility was to oversee all the worship in Israel. However, in pursuing this great mission, he neglected the responsibilities in his own home. Don’t let your desire to do God’s work cause you to neglect your family. If you do, your mission may degenerate into a quest for personal importance, and your family will suffer the consequences of your neglect.

Let us as parents never take for granted that our kids just by exposure to our faith that they will “get it”! We must speak to them about Jesus Christ. We must evangelize our own children. We must guide them to the cross and pray daily that they accept Christ as their Savior early (so that they won’t have to live the life of idolatry and sinful lusts that we lived). We must and equally as important once they accept Christ as their own personal Savior disciple our children. We must observe the fruits of their spirit and guide them in all righteousness. We must teach them how to mature in their walk with Jesus. We must take an active role in discipling our children – not depending on them to get it by osmosis, not depending on them to get it by exposure, not depending on them to get from their children’s pastor or the youth pastor. We have to do it. It is the most important aspect of our job as parents – to teach, to lead our kids to the cross, and to lead and to teach them after the cross. It has eternal importance.

Amen and Amen.

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1 Samuel 3:1-4:1 (Part 2 of 3)
The Lord Speaks to Samuel

One of the things that has been going through my head and my soul here in the years since I finished my Master of Arts in Christian Ministry degree back in May 2014 is whether my calling from God is real or whether it is just some egotistical personal desire. That’s a big difference, ya know! Did God really call me to full time ministry? Was that really His voice, His nudging, His pricking of my soul or was it just an ego trip? One thing is for sure is that all this time, 3 years, later I do begin to wonder. Right now, I am in a phase where I am just saying to the Lord that if it is your will, you will make the path clear and you will make it very clear to me. God certainly knows with me that I am not the brightest bulb in the marquee and instead of tapping me on the shoulder with His ways that He has to hit me up side the head with a 2×4. For you non-Southerners reading this, that means He has to make something exceeding and abundantly clear in no uncertain terms!

However, there have been periods of anger. I have been angry at God for having given me what I thought was His calling but yet He has opened no doors. Lord, I have been faithful. I have done what I perceived as doing what you wanted me to do which was to learn more about you, about your Word, about writing about your Word, about church governance, about working in a church setting, about the administrative part of church, just learning all that I can learn about being a pastor and all the hats they can wear (especially in solo pastor churches). Nothing has been happening. Not even that overwhelming urge drawing me to a people group where I plant a church among them. Close but no cigar kind of feeling.

There have been periods of disillusionment where Satan has a field day in my heart and soul and in those periods where you are down and out about something you are susceptible to listen. Satan can grab hold of even the most vibrant Christ follower at times through disillusionment. Satan, in these times, has told me that I am not good enough to be a full time pastor. He will tell me that you just don’t stack up against these guys who have been pastors since college. You don’t stack up to these pastors who accepted Christ as their Savior at like age 2 or 12 or 22. You, you Mark, you only accepted Jesus as Your Savior at age 39. You ain’t nothing compared to them. You didn’t grow up wanting the same things they wanted. You didn’t learn the preacher lingo. You didn’t learn the secret handshakes. You not even good at quoting Scripture off the cuff. You may know the general idea of books of the Bible but you, you Mark, you can’t pull out a verse of Scripture from memory appropriate for a situation if you tried all day long. You don’t talk, walk, or act like all these lifetime preachers that you know at your church or through North Greenville University. You are just half-ass.

There have been periods where I examine myself for all my character flaws of which I have many. Satan will point to those things as disqualifications and the reason you are not being allowed by God to enter into full-time ministry. That’s a pretty good solid way that Satan speaks to us. You, you Mark, have a sordid past full of bad decisions – divorce, partying too hard, bad choices, choices you wish you never made, loose morals, compromised ethics, all those things. You, you Mark, are not pure of heart. You are just some guy who just a poser. These are the worst attacks of all because it’s all true. I am not qualified to be a man of God full-time in no way shape or form. It is so very true. I am probably the last person God should call into full time ministry.

Do you hear voices in your head? Are you like me in that way? Which one to you listen to? Satan? God? How do you discern the difference? What is of God and what is of Satan? Whose voice are you and will you listen to? That was the thought that came to me this morning as I read through this passage for a second time. Now, with these thoughts in mind let’s read the passage again this morning, 1 Samuel 3:1-4:1:

3 Meanwhile, the boy Samuel served the Lord by assisting Eli. Now in those days messages from the Lord were very rare, and visions were quite uncommon.

2 One night Eli, who was almost blind by now, had gone to bed. 3 The lamp of God had not yet gone out, and Samuel was sleeping in the Tabernacle[a] near the Ark of God. 4 Suddenly the Lord called out, “Samuel!”

“Yes?” Samuel replied. “What is it?” 5 He got up and ran to Eli. “Here I am. Did you call me?”

“I didn’t call you,” Eli replied. “Go back to bed.” So he did.

6 Then the Lord called out again, “Samuel!”

Again Samuel got up and went to Eli. “Here I am. Did you call me?”

“I didn’t call you, my son,” Eli said. “Go back to bed.”

7 Samuel did not yet know the Lord because he had never had a message from the Lord before. 8 So the Lord called a third time, and once more Samuel got up and went to Eli. “Here I am. Did you call me?”

Then Eli realized it was the Lord who was calling the boy. 9 So he said to Samuel, “Go and lie down again, and if someone calls again, say, ‘Speak, Lord, your servant is listening.’” So Samuel went back to bed.

10 And the Lord came and called as before, “Samuel! Samuel!”

And Samuel replied, “Speak, your servant is listening.”

11 Then the Lord said to Samuel, “I am about to do a shocking thing in Israel. 12 I am going to carry out all my threats against Eli and his family, from beginning to end. 13 I have warned him that judgment is coming upon his family forever, because his sons are blaspheming God[b] and he hasn’t disciplined them. 14 So I have vowed that the sins of Eli and his sons will never be forgiven by sacrifices or offerings.”
Samuel Speaks for the Lord

15 Samuel stayed in bed until morning, then got up and opened the doors of the Tabernacle[c] as usual. He was afraid to tell Eli what the Lord had said to him. 16 But Eli called out to him, “Samuel, my son.”

“Here I am,” Samuel replied.

17 “What did the Lord say to you? Tell me everything. And may God strike you and even kill you if you hide anything from me!” 18 So Samuel told Eli everything; he didn’t hold anything back. “It is the Lord’s will,” Eli replied. “Let him do what he thinks best.”

19 As Samuel grew up, the Lord was with him, and everything Samuel said proved to be reliable. 20 And all Israel, from Dan in the north to Beersheba in the south, knew that Samuel was confirmed as a prophet of the Lord. 21 The Lord continued to appear at Shiloh and gave messages to Samuel there at the Tabernacle.
4 And Samuel’s words went out to all the people of Israel.

Here, in this passage, we see that, although God had spoken directly and audibly with Moses and Joshua, His audible word became rare during the three centuries of rule by judges. By Eli’s time, no prophets were speaking God’s message to Israel. Why? Look at the attitude of Eli’s sons. They were reflective of the times. They either refused to listen to God or allowed greed to get in the way of communication with Him. Listening and responding is vital in a relationship with God. Although God does not always use the sound of a human voice, He always speaks clearly through His Word under the influence of the Holy Spirit. To receive His messages, we must be ready to listen and to act upon what He tells us. Like Samuel, be ready to say “Here I am” when God calls you to action.

Samuel was confused at first. He didn’t realize that God was speaking to Him. He, first, thought it was his master, the high priest, calling for him. It took three times for Samuel to realize that it was God calling to him. Even though Eli had some serious issues that were going to cost him and his family, he did give Samuel some godly advice – that it was God calling Samuel and not him. Sometimes, we need that godly advice that we need to listen to what God is telling us. So many times in life, we confuse Satan’s twisting of the truth to keep us from following what God wants us to do. Sometimes, we may confuse our pride and/or Satan’s words for God’s words. Sometimes, Satan will keep us from hearing God because he does not want us to be effective in ways God has talented us for the kingdom. He wants to blur the picture such that we will back away from serving God. He will blind us from seeing the path that God has set for us. Because most of all Satan does not want us to be warriors for God’s army. He wants us to be distracted so that we will not serve God. He will even use the difference in God’s timing and our desires to twist the truth that God has called you to do something. God may be growing you and pruning and it may be taking longer than appears necessary to you and then Satan will tell you that you were just barking up the wrong tree, you are not qualified, you are not really called by God. Satan will do whatever it takes to keep you from your God calling.

If God has called you to do something for Him, it will be consistent with Scripture. If God has called you do something, it is not because He thinks you are qualified (because none of us are qualified to serve Him). If God has called you to do something for Him, it will be more than a passing fad. It will be a burning in your soul that you are willing to make any sacrifice to get to it. If it is a true God calling, you will work, work, work to get there. If it is true God calling, you will not take no for answer. If it is a true God calling, you will want it for a long period of time and it will not wane. If it is a true God calling, you will let go of your egotistical desires and wait upon the Lord as He molds you into the servant He wants you to be. If it is a true God calling, He will make the path clear and He will make it plain to you which door you should open and He will make the door appear at the right time. Don’t let Satan be the voice you listen to and shy away from or give up on your God-ordained calling. Listen to the voice of God not Satan.

Listen to the right voice.

Amen and Amen.

 

1 Samuel 3:1-4:1 (Part 1 of 3)

 

The Lord Speaks to Samuel

 

 

 

Last night during life group, we were reading in Genesis about Joseph while he was in jail after being accused basically of rape by Potipher’s wife. He was in jail like 12 or 13 years before he was able to get out. But even while he was in jail, he was faithful to the Lord and used his talents to the best of his ability. He was gifted at administration and he was gifted at interpreting dreams. He served his masters no matter who they were with grace, dignity, passion, and professionalism no matter whether he was Potipher’s household manager or whether he was a prisoner in prison. He did what was in front of him and did it well for many years. He trusted the Lord with the rest of the what, when, where and why. He just did the who. He was who he was, a faithful follower of God, regardless of circumstance. He honored his superiors in whatever circumstance for however long it took because a person of faith has faith that God has you in a position for a reason for a period of time and that we show trust in God by honoring those who God has placed over us.

 

 

 

We sometimes want to short-circuit God’s plan when things are progressing as fast as we would like or are not happening in the way we would like or not happening in the order of things that we would like. I know I had been in a struggle with this point over the past year and a half until recently. I know that you have heard me share here about feeling called into full-time ministry but nothing has been happening. I came close to landing an administrative pastor’s position in Ohio back in January of this year but in the end I came up short in the final two candidate review process. It had been hard to even get to that point so we lost that position I was heartbroken and bitter for a good while. But through prayer, through constantly being in God’s Word, and just hearing the Holy Spirit speak to me as I write these almost daily blogs, I was able to get the message of “keep plowing the field in front of you.” God was telling me to be like Joseph and keep doing your best and keep serving God in the capacity you are at the moment (where I have assigned you) and keep serving those that are above you and most of all, keep trusting God. I like that idea that God put in my head today about Joseph trusting God with what, when, where and why and Joseph did the who. I must trust that God has my future what, when, where, and why under control and he will reveal it as I mature in my current situation. I must continue to be faithful about the who that I am. I must be a faithful and devoted follower of Jesus Christ and I serve Him by honoring those, serving those whom God has placed over me. Who knows what God will reveal. But if I gave up and quit and went and sat in the corner and withdrew because things are not working out according to MY plan, then, I may miss God’s intentions for me. By being a faithful servant in the capacity that He has me in now, by being a good and cheerful servant, by doing what I do for my church to the best of my ability, God will honor that and He will give me the opportunity that He has for me in due time.

 

 

 

The similarity to Joseph’s mindset that Samuel has here in this passage was the first thing that popped into my mind of the three things that I plan to share with you about this passage over the next few days. That idea of service to those that God has placed above us was the heartwarming first impression that I have of this passage, 1 Samuel 3:1-4:1. Here you see Samuel’s first inclination when he hear the audible voice of the Lord was that he immediately thought it was his overseer, Eli, calling. Now, with these thoughts in mind let’s read the passage:

 

 

 

3 Meanwhile, the boy Samuel served the Lord by assisting Eli. Now in those days messages from the Lord were very rare, and visions were quite uncommon.

 

 

 

2 One night Eli, who was almost blind by now, had gone to bed. 3 The lamp of God had not yet gone out, and Samuel was sleeping in the Tabernacle[a] near the Ark of God. 4 Suddenly the Lord called out, “Samuel!”

 

 

 

“Yes?” Samuel replied. “What is it?” 5 He got up and ran to Eli. “Here I am. Did you call me?”

 

 

 

“I didn’t call you,” Eli replied. “Go back to bed.” So he did.

 

 

 

6 Then the Lord called out again, “Samuel!”

 

 

 

Again Samuel got up and went to Eli. “Here I am. Did you call me?”

 

 

 

“I didn’t call you, my son,” Eli said. “Go back to bed.”

 

 

 

7 Samuel did not yet know the Lord because he had never had a message from the Lord before. 8 So the Lord called a third time, and once more Samuel got up and went to Eli. “Here I am. Did you call me?”

 

 

 

Then Eli realized it was the Lord who was calling the boy. 9 So he said to Samuel, “Go and lie down again, and if someone calls again, say, ‘Speak, Lord, your servant is listening.’” So Samuel went back to bed.

 

 

 

10 And the Lord came and called as before, “Samuel! Samuel!”

 

 

 

And Samuel replied, “Speak, your servant is listening.”

 

 

 

11 Then the Lord said to Samuel, “I am about to do a shocking thing in Israel. 12 I am going to carry out all my threats against Eli and his family, from beginning to end. 13 I have warned him that judgment is coming upon his family forever, because his sons are blaspheming God[b] and he hasn’t disciplined them. 14 So I have vowed that the sins of Eli and his sons will never be forgiven by sacrifices or offerings.”

 

Samuel Speaks for the Lord

 

 

 

15 Samuel stayed in bed until morning, then got up and opened the doors of the Tabernacle[c] as usual. He was afraid to tell Eli what the Lord had said to him. 16 But Eli called out to him, “Samuel, my son.”

 

 

 

“Here I am,” Samuel replied.

 

 

 

17 “What did the Lord say to you? Tell me everything. And may God strike you and even kill you if you hide anything from me!” 18 So Samuel told Eli everything; he didn’t hold anything back. “It is the Lord’s will,” Eli replied. “Let him do what he thinks best.”

 

 

 

19 As Samuel grew up, the Lord was with him, and everything Samuel said proved to be reliable. 20 And all Israel, from Dan in the north to Beersheba in the south, knew that Samuel was confirmed as a prophet of the Lord. 21 The Lord continued to appear at Shiloh and gave messages to Samuel there at the Tabernacle.

 

4 And Samuel’s words went out to all the people of Israel.

 

 

 

Here, we see Samuel being so devoted to his master/his teacher that he, not having heard the voice of the Lord before, thought the voice was that of Eli. He had been serving his master for since as long as he could remember so when his master called his ear was trained to respond. It’s kind of like that ear you have as a parent when there’s something wrong with your child. You may not can hear your spouse breathing right next to you in bed (maybe even sleeping through their snoring), but let your child wimper on the other side of the house in their bedroom, you’ll hear it. You may even have your feet on the floor and walking toward their bedroom even before you have gotten your wits about you and realize oh yeah I am walking toward their bedroom. That is the same devotion that I envision that Samuel had for Eli.

 

 

 

By the time of this passage in this first book of Samuel, he is an adult. He has been serving Eli for all of his childhood and adult life. He was Eli’s helper. He, then, was exposed to every aspect of Eli’s life. He knew everything that Eli knew. He knew about Eli’s sons too I bet. He knew how corrupt they were. He knew how sinful they were. He also knew that Eli was not disciplining his sons and the effect that it all was having on Israel. But, yet, his devotion to Eli never waned. Here, we see how devoted Samuel was in his service to Eli. He goes to his master three times thinking that his master had called. That was his first response, to serve his master. That was his highest priority on earth.

 

 

 

That’s the thing that grabbed me this morning is that we often see how we could do things better than those who are placed over us in the church. We often complain and get bitter because things did not turn out the way we planned in our service to the church (and even in life in general). We get mad at God for why he did not make things turn out the way that we wanted them to. Most assuredly, we serve people in church and in our secular jobs where we feel like they are flawed, uninspired, and even disastrous people. However, God has placed them in our path for a reason. He has placed them in our path for a season. He has something to teach us about service, humility, honor, and even maybe something about how we will or will not do our job for the Lord in the future. If you have a rotten boss, what can you do to help them do their job better. Samuel took that approach I bet. Joseph took that approach I bet. What if you think that God is not working out His plan for your calling? Think again. Trust God with the what, where, when, and why and just be the who, a faithful follower of Christ. Does you think your leader at church is not doing things the way they should be done? Instead of complaining, consider that their way may be the right way. Consider praying that you’ll see that or consider praying that God will change their heart. The same is true in secular work relationships. Consider that God has you right where He wants you at this moment. It may not look like the way that you want it to look. But He has you here right now at this place at this time with these people to accomplish we He wants at this time in this place with these people. Trust God with the what, where, when and why and just worry about the who. Be the who, the faithful follower of Jesus Christ, who is plowing the field that is in front of you.

 

 

 

Amen and Amen.

 

 

1 Samuel 2:27-35

 

A Warning for Eli’s Family

 

 Have you ever been somewhere, a family gathering, a public place, anywhere, where there are those parents who are like hippy-dippy shrub huggers that believe that their child should be allowed to “find their own way” and “freely express themselves”. We’ve all seen it. Kids with no discipline running amuk, tearing things up and doing things with no consequences. It kind of reminds me of when I was married to my second wife. When I married her in 1995, I inherited her three boys ranging in age from 3 to 10 years old.

 

 

 

Before they came into my life, they had apparently been “free range” kids. Never had they suffered any real consequences for bad behavior. I should have figured it out from the day my second wife moved in together a little less than a year before we were married. One of the ways that discipline was enforced on me by my parents was at the dinner table. First, all four of us sat at the table. Second, we were required to have good manners (because to my dad, the family meal was an event not just something you do and as he always said, “how you act at the dinner table is how you will act when we go out to eat, have good manners!). Fourth, and most importantly, you ate what was put on the table or you will go hungry.

 

 

 

I raised my children the same way, especially that last part, the eating what was put in front of you. When I was growing up, if you didn’t eat what was put on your plate you sat there until you did. I remember battles of wills with my dad and, of course, dad won. Mom was not a short order cook according to Dad. You ate what she fixed or you sit at the dinner table until you did. I raised my girls the same way. Sure, there were a few battles here and there about it, but over time, the girls would quietly eat whatever was placed in front of them. Discipline starts at the dinner table, I always have said.

 

 

 

The reason that became a phrase that rang true was that thing I should have noticed the very first time that it was dinner time after my second wife and I moved into together. It was dinner time. She fixed me a grown-up meal but she fixed her youngest son some chicken nuggets or such. She didn’t even make the two older boys come in for dinner at the specified dinner time. Her youngest son was allowed to eat his meal on the floor in front of the television and then he didn’t eat but maybe half of his meal before he wanted to get up and go play. When I told him that he needed to eat everything on his plate, everything, before he could go out and play, it was as if the world had ended. He had never been told that before. And the woman who would become my second wife acted as if I had crossed a boundary. I should have known right then what I was in for. The lack of discipline at family meals about food and about how you acted at the table was the tip of the iceberg with what I had to deal with when it came to those boys. They were completely undisciplined and had always been able to negotiate their way out of trouble with their mom and the dinner table was no different. The dinner table was just an indication of how discipline was handled. Growling about behavior. Punishment stated. Children wining incessantly until they negotiated their way out of trouble. Relenting by their mom (even if in contradiction to me). And misbehavior ultimately not punished. As you might expect, the boys ended being discipline problems even through the teenage years and into adulthood. I must say the oldest though began to catch on about why I was tough on them mid-day through his junior year in high school. However, he was taken from us too soon in the middle of that junior year in a car accident. The middle boy did not really begin to catch on until he had a child of his own. The youngest is still having difficulty learning self-discipline.

 

 

 

That whole concept of disciplining your children and sticking by your guns and how that even extends to the dinner table was what I thought of when I read this passage this morning, 1 Samuel 2:27-35:

 

 

 

27 One day a man of God came to Eli and gave him this message from the Lord: “I revealed myself[a] to your ancestors when they were Pharaoh’s slaves in Egypt. 28 I chose your ancestor Aaron[b] from among all the tribes of Israel to be my priest, to offer sacrifices on my altar, to burn incense, and to wear the priestly vest[c] as he served me. And I assigned the sacrificial offerings to you priests. 29 So why do you scorn my sacrifices and offerings? Why do you give your sons more honor than you give me—for you and they have become fat from the best offerings of my people Israel!

 

 

 

30 “Therefore, the Lord, the God of Israel, says: I promised that your branch of the tribe of Levi[d] would always be my priests. But I will honor those who honor me, and I will despise those who think lightly of me. 31 The time is coming when I will put an end to your family, so it will no longer serve as my priests. All the members of your family will die before their time. None will reach old age. 32 You will watch with envy as I pour out prosperity on the people of Israel. But no members of your family will ever live out their days. 33 The few not cut off from serving at my altar will survive, but only so their eyes can go blind and their hearts break, and their children will die a violent death.[e] 34 And to prove that what I have said will come true, I will cause your two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, to die on the same day!

 

 

 

35 “Then I will raise up a faithful priest who will serve me and do what I desire. I will establish his family, and they will be priests to my anointed kings forever. 36 Then all of your surviving family will bow before him, begging for money and food. ‘Please,’ they will say, ‘give us jobs among the priests so we will have enough to eat.’”

 

 

 

From this passage, we see that Eli apparently had a difficult time rearing his sons. He apparently did not take any strong disciplinary action with the when he became aware of any of their wrongdoings. But Eli was not just a father ignoring the bad behavior of his kids, he was the high priest who was ignoring the sins of his sons, assistant priests, under his jurisdiction. As a result, the Lord took disciplinary action himself. He took action when the earthly father would not. Eli was guilty of honoring his sons desires about God by letting them continue with their sinful ways.

 

 

 

When we are parents, the thing that we have to remember is that we are not put here to be our children’s best friend. It is long hard work with no appreciation. It is being tough when it is easier to give in. It is standing your ground no matter how much the kids whine or no matter how many times they say they hate you. You are here to raise them into responsible adulthood (and even then it does not guarantee that they will make the right choices in life after they leave home). You are here to raise them in such a way that they will be able to make it on their own in life and not expect everyone to make exceptions for them. Not expect to whine their way out of trouble. The world doesn’t care about the excuses that you have for why you did something wrong or why you failed at something. We, as parents, must remember that we are showing love to our kids when we take the hard line and discipline them, especially when they are young and cute and cuddly. Discipline starts when kids are very young. Discipline starts at the dinner table. Discipline is what we are here for when it comes to our kids. You want them to grow up to be productive citizens and can take care of themselves. You want you children to realize that they world doesn’t think they are the cat’s meow and be able to get up when they get knocked down and dust themselves off and get back at living their life and taking care their own family. Discipline is the greatest act of love that a parent can show their child.

 

 

 

It is the same way with God. When He disciplines us by allowing our actions and their consequences play themselves out as punishment to us, He is showing us love. He wants us to understand that a life of sinful behavior will only destroy us. The discipline of consequences is God’s way of showing us what happens when we do not pursue an obedient relationship with Him. He even gives us an instruction book on how we are to honor Him with our lives – The Bible. He even went as far as providing us with Jesus Christ as the way to reconcile ourselves to Him after our sin casts us away from being near Him. He loves us but so very much but He does discipline us. Discipline is how He often shows us His love.

 

 

 

Amen and Amen.

 

1 Samuel 2:12-25 (Part 6 of 6)
Eli’s Wicked Sons

When I the final verse of this passage, “Meanwhile, the boy Samuel grew taller and grew in favor with the Lord and with the people” (1 Samuel 2:25), I immediately thought of LifeSong Church’s church plant in Manchester, CT. The church plant team there arrived in Connecticut back in 2012 to little fanfare. There was not an immediate opening of a church. The whole team moved into the area and found jobs in the area. There were not even church services for the first two years. But in the meantime, the church plant group were doing things to gain notice in the community. They were making connections with people of influence in the community. They were making friends with neighbors. They were doing things for people for free that usually came at a fee. They were having free movie events in the park. They were making connections with schools in the area. They were speaking of the love of Jesus Christ at every opportunity. They were being uncommon compared to the common in Manchester, CT.

It is surprising that in the region of the country that gave birth to Great Awakening in America in the 19th century that swept across America from New England, it is now one of the most spiritually dead regions of the world. Statistics showed our team that only 2% of people in New England attend church regularly. There are many that consider themselves Catholic there but it is what religious statistical experts call “cultural Catholics”. They call themselves Catholic because that is what generations of their family have been. They call themselves Catholic because everybody in their generationally laden neighborhoods call themselves Catholic. However, virtually none of them attend Mass nor participate in anything to do with the local Catholic church. Saying you are Catholic there is more a family identifier, a neighborhood identifier, etc. than it has to do with being a Christian in a real sense. So, in this spiritually dead place that was once such a thriving hotbed of Christianity and Christian thought for the Protestant church, we find people who have no concept of Christ. They believe in nothing. They believe in post-modern universalism (all roads lead to some place of nirvana or heaven). They believe in doing more good than bad and you go to a place of reward just as is the trend nationally in America. Since we measure how good we are vs. bad (essentially like a student grading their own test), then, we will always measure ourselves good and get to go to our happy place after death. That is if you believe in anything other than this existence. Many don’t believe in the afterlife at all. They just believe that this is it and you do what you have to do to get by and try not to end up alone. It is because of the death of Christianity in New England that there is a sense of resignation and blankness to the people in Manchester. Sure, they have families and good times and work and parties out back of their row houses, and occasional visits to the local Catholic church for christenings and weddings and funerals, but other than that there is the sense of blandness, a lack of hope for the future.

Into this spiritually dark place comes LifeSong’s church plant team. They engaged people with the gospel and with uncommon acts of kindness in a land where “what’s your angle” is the typical response. When people find out that LifeSong Manchester was loving on people just because Jesus told them to, they are amazed. They were amazed at how the gospel message had gotten twisted over the years in their area as people fell away from the church. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like all of a sudden the church built a building seating 5,000 and people were coming in droves to Sunday morning services that got televised locally or anything like that. No, it’s still hard. The gatherings started in a local restaurant’s “event room” – a back room reserved for private dining events like birthday parties, wedding rehearsal dinners, corporate meals, etc. These started out with a few people attending. The relationships built over two years gave them just a few people who began to want to know more about this Jesus Christ that was completely different from the one they had culturally heard about – the real Jesus Christ.

Fast forward to now, the city of Manchester approached LifeSong Manchester recently about them occupying an empty storefront in downtown Manchester for their place of worship. This storefront had been empty for years and the city now feels as though LifeSong Manchester being in the facility will help the area from falling into disrepair and might even spur revitalization in that part of Manchester’s downtown district. Wow, a few years earlier, city council had refused to allow LifeSong Manchester (LSM) to sign a lease at the local recreation center building because of that whole separation of church and state thing. Now, the city is asking them to do them a favor and occupy a building for them. For the last two years, LSM has been renting the right to use a local Presbyterian church for its services. For the last two years LSM’s slowly growing group of 50-60 regular attendees has been meeting on Sunday nights in a local Presbyterian church on Sunday evenings. Now they have the opportunity to have their own place. LSM can set up offices there. They can set up their own worship center. They can have a place they can call their own. Wow, in this spiritually dark place where universalism reigns, where atheism is present and powerful. This is strictly a God thing. God showing favor to His faithful servants.

How do you go from being distrusted by many to being a group that the city counts as an asset to the city. It goes the fact that the Manchester campus’ motto is real, “Love God. Love People.” By being persistent and ever present in working to show our love for God by loving people in unanticipated and uncommon ways and developing relationships with people and with governments and just demonstrating Jesus Christ, the real Jesus Christ, to everyone they come in contact with, they grew in favor not only with God but with man. Hearts were softened by the love of Jesus Christ shown through the people and pastors of LSM.

That’s the thing that struck me this morning as I read this passage again for the final time before we move on to the next passage – how through our love of God and because of that our love for others, we can grow in stature with God and with man. With that in mind, let us read 1 Samuel 2:12-26 for the fifth of six reads of this loaded passage today:

12 Now the sons of Eli were scoundrels who had no respect for the Lord 13 or for their duties as priests. Whenever anyone offered a sacrifice, Eli’s sons would send over a servant with a three-pronged fork. While the meat of the sacrificed animal was still boiling, 14 the servant would stick the fork into the pot and demand that whatever it brought up be given to Eli’s sons. All the Israelites who came to worship at Shiloh were treated this way. 15 Sometimes the servant would come even before the animal’s fat had been burned on the altar. He would demand raw meat before it had been boiled so that it could be used for roasting.

16 The man offering the sacrifice might reply, “Take as much as you want, but the fat must be burned first.” Then the servant would demand, “No, give it to me now, or I’ll take it by force.” 17 So the sin of these young men was very serious in the Lord’s sight, for they treated the Lord’s offerings with contempt.

18 But Samuel, though he was only a boy, served the Lord. He wore a linen garment like that of a priest.[a] 19 Each year his mother made a small coat for him and brought it to him when she came with her husband for the sacrifice. 20 Before they returned home, Eli would bless Elkanah and his wife and say, “May the Lord give you other children to take the place of this one she gave to the Lord.[b]” 21 And the Lord blessed Hannah, and she conceived and gave birth to three sons and two daughters. Meanwhile, Samuel grew up in the presence of the Lord.

22 Now Eli was very old, but he was aware of what his sons were doing to the people of Israel. He knew, for instance, that his sons were seducing the young women who assisted at the entrance of the Tabernacle.[c] 23 Eli said to them, “I have been hearing reports from all the people about the wicked things you are doing. Why do you keep sinning? 24 You must stop, my sons! The reports I hear among the Lord’s people are not good. 25 If someone sins against another person, God[d] can mediate for the guilty party. But if someone sins against the Lord, who can intercede?” But Eli’s sons wouldn’t listen to their father, for the Lord was already planning to put them to death.

26 Meanwhile, the boy Samuel grew taller and grew in favor with the Lord and with the people.

In this passage, we see that final verse is very reminiscent of Luke 2:52 where it states, “Jesus grew in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and all the people.” Although we know that for political expediency and to maintain the status quo, the Jewish authorities had Jesus executed. However, it was not because they did not respect Jesus. They most certainly respected his ability to teach and referred to Him as rabbi (even though Jesus never was formerly trained for the priesthood). They had respect for him. And his different kind of preaching of forgiveness, and love of the Father for His people, and how they was an urgency to make ourselves right with God, how we are to love one another, and how he preached about false religion and hypocrisy drew large crowds to Him. His message of salvation by grace through faith alone was radical because the Jewish faith had become so works oriented and so “I’m in, you’re out” judgmental. Jesus drew the disenchanted and disfranchised unto Himself with His message that God loves us and wants us to be reconciled to Him through submit our lives to His authority. It was a radically different message that grew Jesus in stature with men. He was amazing in His understanding of Scripture (well, since He inspired it’s writing and all). He was amazing in his ability to command the loyalty of His disciples. They knew they were in the presence of greatness. They knew they were in the presence of the Son of God. Only those who saw him as threat to the détente between Rome and Jerusalem and the survival of the semi-free Jewish nation wanted Him gone. But, it was not because they did not respect Jesus. By staying true to Scripture, by staying true to God, by staying the course and doing exactly what His Father sent Him to do, Jesus may have been feared to the point of being executed by the authorities, but it was not from a lack of respect.

The point here is that LSM has grown in stature with God and with man, just as Samuel and Jesus, by being consistent. They are loving their community in the name of Jesus Christ. They are loving God with all their heart, soul, mind and strength and it shows. They stand on the true word of the gospel message and will not stop doing that. They keep plugging away. Sure, there is so much more work to be done there. But their consistency, their authenticity, had genuine expressed love for their community, there evidence that they are not going anywhere, has grown the respect of the local authorities for LSM. They are counted on when there is a need that needs to be met in the community. They are counted on as the good guys in the community. They are demonstrating to all observers how the gospel changes people. As a result, they have gained respect of men. Sure, there may be bumps in the road in their relationship with authorities in the future, but it will not be because of a lack of respect. Through their consistently demonstrating the love of Jesus Christ in real and tangible ways to the Manchester community, they have earned respect of men who once distrusted them. That’s the message to us all. If we live our life consistently demonstrating our love of Jesus Christ to Jesus himself and to the world around us, we may have enemies to the message of Christ but it will not be because of a lack of respect. In your workplace, if you are consistent in your honoring of Jesus Christ in everything you do and you quietly demonstrate His qualities to the world, people will respect your integrity, your consistency of belief, your consistency of action, and know that you are a Christian man or woman. They may not believe as we do, but they will respect us for being persons of integrity, consistency, and for how we demonstrate the love of Jesus in real and practical ways.

So, LSM keep doing what are doing. God will reward it. God will open the doors that need opening. To you and me, keep on loving Jesus in such a way that in our daily lives people begin to notice that hey, he is one of the good guys. You can count on him to have integrity. You can count on him to show uncommon love to the world around him. You can count on him to be there for people when help is needed or when a shoulder is needed to cry on. You can just…count on him. Those Jesus people, man, they are different. That’s what we want to be…to be so different that the world notices. To be so consistent at it that people come to respect and expect it. That’s what I want. For people to see me and say…there’s one of those Jesus people. They’re nutty but I respect them!

Amen and Amen.

1 Samuel 2:12-25 (Part 5 of 6)
Eli’s Wicked Sons

Unrepentant Sin is a phrase that we talked about yesterday. Those are situations where we either don’t recognize a sin as sin or even worse, just don’t care. This is a conversation that my bestie guys and I had last night over dinner at Five Guys. Our wives were on one side of the table and we were on our side. Two totally different conversations that only occasionally intersected when you would pick on a word or a phrase here and there. They were happy to have their girl time talking down at their end of the table and we guys were having our much rarer guys only conversation. Those are rare. The girls in our circle of friends talk with each other daily and do a joint Bible devotional together constantly and they text back and forth about that daily. However, with us guys, not sure why, but we just don’t talk that much when we are not around each other. When we are together it’s like we’ve never been apart. Common history, common interests, the conversations just flow and together we can generate conversations that can make your inner soul hurt from laughter that is so deep. At the same time, we can have some pretty profound conversations too. Last night was one of those nights.

We were talking about the very subject that I wrote about last blog. Unrepentant Sin. How do you confront that as a Christ follower. There are people that we know mutually that outwardly say that they are Bible believing Christians but yet have sin in their lives that they are not recognizing as sin. They think the sin is OK for them because, well, they either don’t realize that the sin they are waist deep in is a sin at all or they just think that God will make an exception for because of grace, or they just don’t care that it is a sin because they want the pleasure of the sin. How do you confront people about their unbridled, uncaring, unrepentant sin that they are participating in when each of us are sinners ourselves? How do you do that? I am no perfect man by any means. I fear telling someone about the sin that they are waist deep in and don’t seem to see it as sin because I know that I have my blindside sins too. We came down to the fact that it has to do with relationship. It is only when you have relationship with someone that you can earn the right to speak truth into their lives. Certainly a shepherd such our senior pastor can caste a sermon about unrepentant sin and it may convict some, but most often it is through direct relationship with someone that a person will be confronted about their unrepentant participation in a sin that is clearly wrong according to the Bible. It is through me knowing you and you knowing me that I have a right to speak truth in to your life and vice versa.

I had my experience with this head on back in 2009/10 time frame. Elena and I were living in Livermore, CA and we were attending Livermore Alive Community Church. We had become best friends with the pastor and his wife, Luke and Felisha. As we began to grow as Christ followers and as the church began to grow, Luke decided that it was time to have an elder team in which he would be the first among equals as the full-time preaching pastor. After some prayer time, I felt like as though I could be an elder. I had the passion. I had the desire. I have the love for my Savior. Then over a weeklong period Luke had all the elder candidates over to his house individually (with his wife and kids gone) to discuss their candidacy. When it was my turn, ya know, I figured it was just a formality. Luke and I were best buds outside of church. Elena and Felisha were best buddettes. We hung out a lot. But after a few informal questions, bam, Luke confronted me with the sin that I did not see as sin and even if I did my actions showed that I did not care that it was. Luke told me straight up, plain out that I could not be an elder in the church because I was living with a woman to whom I was not married. I was in effect commit fornication every time I had sex with Elena and that it was a sin to live in the manner in which I was living and was certainly stood in opposition to the qualifications for being an elder in the church as spelled out in Titus 1:5-9, 1 Tim. 3:1-7, and 1 Peter 5:1-4. He pissed me off that night. He shocked me that night. He got up all in my business that night. But he spoke truth that night. I knew that Luke had his own sins but he confronted me with Scripture and he confronted me in love not hatred. He said I simply cannot allow you to be an elder when its blatantly obvious to anyone who reads Scripture that you are not qualified no matter how much I love you and like you. Bam. There it was. I was confronted with my unrepentant sin.

That’s the thing that struck me this morning as I read this passage again – how we have to confront unrepentant and unbridled disregard for God’s Word and deal with it. With that in mind, let us read 1 Samuel 2:12-26 for the fifth of six reads of this loaded passage today:

12 Now the sons of Eli were scoundrels who had no respect for the Lord 13 or for their duties as priests. Whenever anyone offered a sacrifice, Eli’s sons would send over a servant with a three-pronged fork. While the meat of the sacrificed animal was still boiling, 14 the servant would stick the fork into the pot and demand that whatever it brought up be given to Eli’s sons. All the Israelites who came to worship at Shiloh were treated this way. 15 Sometimes the servant would come even before the animal’s fat had been burned on the altar. He would demand raw meat before it had been boiled so that it could be used for roasting.

16 The man offering the sacrifice might reply, “Take as much as you want, but the fat must be burned first.” Then the servant would demand, “No, give it to me now, or I’ll take it by force.” 17 So the sin of these young men was very serious in the Lord’s sight, for they treated the Lord’s offerings with contempt.

18 But Samuel, though he was only a boy, served the Lord. He wore a linen garment like that of a priest.[a] 19 Each year his mother made a small coat for him and brought it to him when she came with her husband for the sacrifice. 20 Before they returned home, Eli would bless Elkanah and his wife and say, “May the Lord give you other children to take the place of this one she gave to the Lord.[b]” 21 And the Lord blessed Hannah, and she conceived and gave birth to three sons and two daughters. Meanwhile, Samuel grew up in the presence of the Lord.

22 Now Eli was very old, but he was aware of what his sons were doing to the people of Israel. He knew, for instance, that his sons were seducing the young women who assisted at the entrance of the Tabernacle.[c] 23 Eli said to them, “I have been hearing reports from all the people about the wicked things you are doing. Why do you keep sinning? 24 You must stop, my sons! The reports I hear among the Lord’s people are not good. 25 If someone sins against another person, God[d] can mediate for the guilty party. But if someone sins against the Lord, who can intercede?” But Eli’s sons wouldn’t listen to their father, for the Lord was already planning to put them to death.

26 Meanwhile, the boy Samuel grew taller and grew in favor with the Lord and with the people.

In this passage, we see that we must deal with the ruggedness of the Old Testament that puts some people off. We must ask the question, “Does a loving God really will or want to put people to death?” In answering that question in context of this passage, we must consider what was going on in the Tabernacle. A person made an offering to the Lord in order that their sins may be forgiven and it was offered typically with a repentant heart wanting to be reconciled to a pure and just God. However, Eli’s sons were stealing the offering and making a sham of a person’s repentant attitude. God, in His love for Israel, could not permit this situation to continue. He allowed Eli’s sons to die as a result of their own boastful presumption. They took the Ark into battle thinking that it would protect them. But God withdrew His protection and the wicked sons of Eli were killed (1 Samuel 4:10-11).

The question is what will you do with it when someone confronts you with your unbridled expressions of unrepentant sin. What did I do when Luke confronted me with my unrepentant sin of living with a woman to whom I was not married. It does not matter that both Elena and I had been married twice before and were gunshy about marriage. We could make all the excuses that we wanted to cover up or to justify our sin but it was plain and simple turning our noses up at God. It was us saying that God will overlook this sin because its our pet sin and we have our reasons for why it is OK. We wanted our cake of living together but not the eating it of being married. We were confronted with our fornication. We were confronted with our repeated sexual encounters outside of wedlock. We were confronted with our advertising it to the world that we lived together and that we were not married. Until someone showed us through relationship that they had the kahunas to confront us about it, we would have continued in our sin in an unrepentant manner – not recognizing our sin, not caring that it was sin, and making an exception for it by ignoring God’s Word, making an exception for by avoiding those parts of the Bible, making an exception for it because it was us and God just understood and winked as us because it was us.

We must love those who we have relationships with enough to compared their lives to Scripture and lovingly tell them to what they need to be told (and be willing to have them do the same for us). Because God is a just God and because of that there are consequences for sins. We must love those we are in relationship with and tell them what they need to hear and do so in love. We don’t want them to have suffer the consequences that sin always has in our lives. Luke loved Elena and me enough to confront us about our sin. We finally saw that in order to grow in Christ and to grow in our witness and to really, really grow in our relationship with each other, we had to trust enough and each other enough to do things God’s way. Luke performed our wedding ceremony on March 21, 2010 right in the middle of church, right at the end of a sermon about doing things God’s way sexually in a world that seems to made sex a recreational sport. Luke was a proud spiritual mentor that day. He took a risk that we would have lost our friendship and also that we would have left the church. But he took the risk to confront us about our unrepentant sin. It was the first time that someone confronted me straight up about a sin I was committing. It was the beginning of growing from a spiritual baby into where I am at now on my journey. Sometimes, we have to be confronted with the cold hard truth of our sin.

There are consequences to sin and God will allow that to play itself out in our lives. It is never good. Eli failed to confront his sons and they paid the price for it eventually. They did not have someone to kick them in the butt and say what you are doing is wrong and they paid the price for it eventually. Help us to love the people that are in sphere of influence enough to tell them the truth that needs telling. Help us to care enough. Love enough. And invest in the relationship enough to the point that our words will be taken with respect and love and will be considered. Let us be loving in our confrontations. Let it be known that we only want our people to grow in their relationship with Jesus Christ. May we pray for friends that will do the same for us.

Amen and Amen.

1 Samuel 2:12-25 (Part 4 of 6)
Eli’s Wicked Sons

When we were little kids, we found out early on about how difficult it was to maintain a lie. It is amazing the energy that is put forth by a little kid to maintain that he did not do something. It is no easier as you grow up. Lies are simply difficult to maintain. You have to create a reality that is not reality. That requires imagination and a re-interpretation of events and creating events that did not occur. To start, you need to invent a story, and you also have to monitor that tale constantly so it is plausible and consistent with the known facts. That task takes a lot of mental effort that innocent truth tellers do not have to spend.

You also need to actively remember the details of the story you’ve fabricated so that you don’t contradict yourself at any point. Remembering a fiction is much more demanding than remembering something that actually occurred. Because you’re worried about your credibility, you’re most likely trying to control your demeanor, and “looking honest” also saps mental energy. And you’re not just monitoring yourself; you’re also scanning your listener’s face for signs that he might be seeing through your lie. That’s not all. Like an actor, you have the mental demands of staying in character. And finally, you have to suppress the truth so that you don’t let some damning fact slip out—another drain on your mind’s limited supply of fuel. In short, the truth is automatic and effortless, and lying is the opposite of that. It is intentional, deliberate and exhausting.

That’s the thing that seems true about sins in relationship to God. Sins and lies are the same. In order for us to overcome the inner morality wired into us by our Creator, we must generate justifications for our sins as being OK. In order for us to continue sinning in our favorite line of sin, we must justify in our minds that it is OK. Then, we must convince others of its rightness. In order for us to enjoy our sins as we desire, there is no other way than to justify by significant effort and research why the sin is OK now in the 21st century. You may have to go as far as to say that God does not exist and thus the Bible is simply a fiction and that we are own moral agents and that we can define for ourselves what is right or wrong. The existence of the Creator and definer of moral rights and wrongs is escaped when you decide that He does not exist. Though justifying his lack of existence does not make Him stop existing and always have existed though.

Others will try to justify the rightness of their favorite sin by saying that man for centuries has misconstrued what the Bible meant. What the writers meant in the Old and New Testaments was not the sin we think of today – thus making the sin we think of as OK for us today. Others will try to justify their sin by saying that Jesus never said anything directly about that so they are not going to worry about anything that Jesus did not say. In order to do that, you have to destroy the Trinity of the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit that have pre-existed together through all eternity and thus Jesus is part of the inspiration of every word in the Bible. There are those too that will justify their sin by saying that God has changed since the New Testament. He is no long the Smiter of all Smiters. He is simply a God of love and he gives us grace and thus all that Old Testament stuff is invalid. In order to do that, you have to also ignore the writings of the New Testament that are consistent with the Old Testament. All of these arguments are made when we sin and don’t want to repent of those sins. Just look at adultery. Just look at homosexuality. Just look at any sin that we don’t want to give up. Think of the reams of paper that are piled up in defending homosexuality and homosexual marriage and the paper that has to be generated to defend heterosexual marriage. In order to make one right you have to make arguments and justifications and for the other there is nothing that needs be said for it is the truth of God for relationships and requires no justification. It is like trying to maintain a lie. Defending our sins takes so much work and convincing others of its rightness is such a burden and whereas the truth is simple and needs no defense and no maintenance.

All of us sin and fall short of the glory of God but when we refuse to repent of sins that we love that’s when our train starts to go off the rails. It is one thing to sin inadvertently or out of ignorance and then seek forgiveness from God and repent. But to be so prideful that you don’t want to give up your pet sins and continue sinning despite knowing they are sins seems a far worse thing.

That’s the thing that struck me this morning as I read this passage again – how we justify our sins as OK in our mind when we don’t want to give up what we are doing that is wrong in the sight of God. With that in mind, let us read 1 Samuel 2:12-26 for the fourth of six reads of this loaded passage today:

12 Now the sons of Eli were scoundrels who had no respect for the Lord 13 or for their duties as priests. Whenever anyone offered a sacrifice, Eli’s sons would send over a servant with a three-pronged fork. While the meat of the sacrificed animal was still boiling, 14 the servant would stick the fork into the pot and demand that whatever it brought up be given to Eli’s sons. All the Israelites who came to worship at Shiloh were treated this way. 15 Sometimes the servant would come even before the animal’s fat had been burned on the altar. He would demand raw meat before it had been boiled so that it could be used for roasting.

16 The man offering the sacrifice might reply, “Take as much as you want, but the fat must be burned first.” Then the servant would demand, “No, give it to me now, or I’ll take it by force.” 17 So the sin of these young men was very serious in the Lord’s sight, for they treated the Lord’s offerings with contempt.

18 But Samuel, though he was only a boy, served the Lord. He wore a linen garment like that of a priest.[a] 19 Each year his mother made a small coat for him and brought it to him when she came with her husband for the sacrifice. 20 Before they returned home, Eli would bless Elkanah and his wife and say, “May the Lord give you other children to take the place of this one she gave to the Lord.[b]” 21 And the Lord blessed Hannah, and she conceived and gave birth to three sons and two daughters. Meanwhile, Samuel grew up in the presence of the Lord.

22 Now Eli was very old, but he was aware of what his sons were doing to the people of Israel. He knew, for instance, that his sons were seducing the young women who assisted at the entrance of the Tabernacle.[c] 23 Eli said to them, “I have been hearing reports from all the people about the wicked things you are doing. Why do you keep sinning? 24 You must stop, my sons! The reports I hear among the Lord’s people are not good. 25 If someone sins against another person, God[d] can mediate for the guilty party. But if someone sins against the Lord, who can intercede?” But Eli’s sons wouldn’t listen to their father, for the Lord was already planning to put them to death.

26 Meanwhile, the boy Samuel grew taller and grew in favor with the Lord and with the people.

In this passage, we see that Eli’s sons knew better, but they continued to disobey God deliberately by cheating, seducing, and robbing the people. The deliberate sins carried out with deceitfulness were beyond the pale of what God could stand. All sins are wrong and deserve punishment in the face of a pure and just God but to sin intentionally may be a worse thing than sins committed in ignorance. When we sin out of ignorance, we deserve punishment for sure but when we sin intentionally, the consequences can and should be more severe. We cannot ignore God’s warnings about sin just because we like our pet sin and are able to justify in our minds why it is OK. No matter how we slice it, justify it, color it, bend it, sin is sin.

Let us seek to identify those stubborn strongholds of sin in our lives. Let us seek to find those areas of our life that we are lying to ourselves as those things that are not sins but really are. Let us examine ourselves in the microscope of Scripture. Let us examine ourselves in the courtroom of our heart with the Holy Spirit. Let the Holy Spirit accuse us of the sins that we want to keep and let us see them in the bright lights of the truth of Scripture. Help us to see those sins too that we are committing that we did not even realize were sins. Help us to repent in the conviction of the Holy Spirit. Help us to no longer spend all the energy needed to maintain our sins as right. Help us to see sin for sin. Help us to daily become more and more like Christ until that day we are made perfect when we arrive in heaven. Help us to have humble hearts enough to admit that our sins are sins and no longer try to justify them.

Amen and Amen.