Archive for December, 2017

1 Samuel 10:17-27 (Part 1 of 3)
Saul Is Acclaimed King

NOTE before I begin…I apologize for my abrupt absence from my normal daily blog. Of course last weekend was filled with Christmas activities. But this past week, my wife and i got knocked down for the count by this year’s vicious strain of the flu the evening of the 26th and we are just now on New Year’s Eve beginning to recover from it. Your prayers are coveted that we fully recover very soon…

But now to today’s blog…

As many of you who have followed my blog for any length of time, you know that I am a huge fan of Clemson University’s intercollegiate athletic teams, particularly the football team. Today, on New Year’s Eve, it is the day before my Tigers play in college football playoff semi-final game against Alabama. As well, my friends here locally that are fans of Clemson’s archrival, University of South Carolina, are anxiously awaiting their non-playoff bowl game against Michigan in the Outback Bowl. College football is huge here in the South Carolina. We live it and breath it from September-January during the regular season and bowl season. Then, we talk about it the rest of the year. In the South, there are two seasons of the year not four. There is no winter, spring, summer and fall. No, the year is divided into “football season” and “not football season.”

I was a Tiger fan as a small child but didn’t really understand the interrelationships of all the teams, the national rankings, the conference standings, and so on. It was when I was about 12 that I really began to understand it all. So, I learned the history of Tiger football program and realized that in the 1950’s that they were a pretty good program and were nationally ranked frequently. Then the program fell on hard times in the 60’s and on through much of the 70’s. Then in 1977, things started to click again. From 1977-1992, Clemson was one of winningest programs in college football under the watchful eye of head coach Danny Ford. Then in 1990, Ford was forced out in a struggle with the administration over the priority of the football program at the school. During those years though 1977-1992, I was age 15-30. During those years, I thought the success would never end. Great season after great season. Upper tier bowl games were the norm. Winning games against bigger brand name programs were commonplace. There was the national championship in 1981. And there were the rest of the years where we were a top 5, top 10, and least a top 15 team at all times.

Then within 3 seasons after the departure of Danny Ford, it all fell apart. The program returned to the mediocrity of the 60’s and 70s. Just making a bowl game became a thing not what bowl game you went to. From 1993 to 2010, we wilted in the face of big games. Either we would lose the game when it mattered most or we would get blown out by an upper tier team. And sometimes, we would lose to teams we were weren’t supposed to lose to – the term, “Clemsoning” came into vogue as a result of things like that. I thought the glory years of Clemson football would never return – 17 long seasons (from my age of 31 through age 48), these were long years where the team became like that child that you love dearly but always lets you down by their constant underachieving against the potential that you know they have.

However, beginning in 2011, under current coach, Dabo Swinney, Clemson has had unequaled success. These are the new glory years of Clemson football. We have had 7 straight seasons now of at least 10 wins every season. Six of seven past seasons we have had at least 11 win seasons. We played for the national championship after the 2015 season. We won the national championship last year after the 2016 season. We are, this year, back in the college football playoffs for a third consecutive year with a chance for another national championship. Since the 3rd game of the 2014 season (after an overtime loss to Florida State), my beloved Tigers have a record of 49-4, a level of success that is only matched by University of Alabama. I luxuriate in the success of the Tigers right now because I remember the lean and mediocre years. It is an amazing time to be a Tiger fan.

However, one thing since my salvation in 2001, I must remember is that even things that I am passionate about including my dear Clemson Tigers can become an obsession. Living here in South Carolina, I get to see Clemson fans and University of South Carolina Gamecock fans the most. Clemson and South Carolina are the greatest of rivals. At birth or when you move here, you must make a choice to be either a Tiger fan or a Gamecock fan. In both camps, there are those who raise celebrating their love for the Tigers or the Gamecocks to the level of a religion. It is an obsession of the highest order with some fans. If you say something about Clemson that is negative or say something about the Gamecocks that is negative, it rises to the level of a personal offense. Although I am sad for the rest of the day on those Saturdays that Clemson loses I typically have let it go by the next morning, there are those who let the results of Saturday events in Clemson or Columbia or wherever the Tigers or the Gamecocks play effect their mood for a week. There are friendships ended because of the results of a football game. There those who build shrines to their Tigers or their Gamecocks in their man caves in their homes. It is, to some a religion based on worshiping something other than God. I love my Tigers but I must keep it perspective as what is sport and not life. It is not my reason for being.

It is that idea of loving something man-made more than God as exemplified by how people raise Clemson or University of South Carolina sports to the level of idolatry in my illustration is what came to mind as I read through today’s passage, 1 Samuel 10:17-27. Let’s read it together now:

17 Later Samuel called all the people of Israel to meet before the Lord at Mizpah. 18 And he said, “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, has declared: I brought you from Egypt and rescued you from the Egyptians and from all of the nations that were oppressing you. 19 But though I have rescued you from your misery and distress, you have rejected your God today and have said, ‘No, we want a king instead!’ Now, therefore, present yourselves before the Lord by tribes and clans.”

20 So Samuel brought all the tribes of Israel before the Lord, and the tribe of Benjamin was chosen by lot. 21 Then he brought each family of the tribe of Benjamin before the Lord, and the family of the Matrites was chosen. And finally Saul son of Kish was chosen from among them. But when they looked for him, he had disappeared! 22 So they asked the Lord, “Where is he?”

And the Lord replied, “He is hiding among the baggage.” 23 So they found him and brought him out, and he stood head and shoulders above anyone else.

24 Then Samuel said to all the people, “This is the man the Lord has chosen as your king. No one in all Israel is like him!”

And all the people shouted, “Long live the king!”

25 Then Samuel told the people what the rights and duties of a king were. He wrote them down on a scroll and placed it before the Lord. Then Samuel sent the people home again.

26 When Saul returned to his home at Gibeah, a group of men whose hearts God had touched went with him. 27 But there were some scoundrels who complained, “How can this man save us?” And they scorned him and refused to bring him gifts. But Saul ignored them.

[Nahash, king of the Ammonites, had been grievously oppressing the people of Gad and Reuben who lived east of the Jordan River. He gouged out the right eye of each of the Israelites living there, and he didn’t allow anyone to come and rescue them. In fact, of all the Israelites east of the Jordan, there wasn’t a single one whose right eye Nahash had not gouged out. But there were 7,000 men who had escaped from the Ammonites, and they had settled in Jabesh-gilead.]

In this passage, we are reminded that Israel’s true king was God, but the nation demanded another. Imagine wanting a human being rather than God as guide and leader. Throughout history, men and women have rejected God, and they continue to do it today. Are you rejecting God by pushing Him aside and acknowledging someone or something else as your “king” or top priority. That is what makes the Old Testament so compelling. It is a reminder to us, through the history of God’s chosen people, Israel, of how much we are like them. We must take heed of the actions of the people of Israel and choose to follow God rather than our selfish desire or rather than trying to be like the culture around us.

As stated earlier, here in South Carolina, there are those who want their king to be the football team of either Clemson University or the University of South Carolina. The culture says we should worship tangible things so the Tiger or the Gamecock fit the bill. What is your Tiger idol? What is your Gamecock idol? Do you miss church because you spend your weekends following a football team? Do you not give to God’s house as He commands because you would rather spend your money on a college football team booster club membership and everything that it costs to attend football games on Saturday? Do you miss church on Sunday because you’re so upset that your football team lost the night before that you cannot face people?

It doesn’t have to be football. Do you worship your stuff? Do you make your things the thing that you desire over God? Do you worship your job to the exclusion of God? Do sit in church worried about what you could be doing for your job or the things that you have to do at work the next day rather than worshiping God? Do you worship your spouse or significant other to the point that it gets in the way of your relationship with God? Do you live and die by what your spouse thinks of you? Do you worship or covet what your neighbor has that you do not? Do you worship celebrities? Do you worship celebrity figures in the Christian church world and devour their books but yet do not read your Bible? What is it that you desire more than God?

Let us examine our lives and see what we desire first in our lives. Let us examine our lives for what we worship more than God. Is it a sports team? Is it your job? Is it your spouse or significant other? Is it desires of the flesh? Is it celebrities? Is it material things? Just because what we desire more than God is not some carved and wooden idol does not make what we worship other than God any less an idol. Israel’s desire was to be like their neighbors and what they had rather than worshiping the only thing that matters – God! Let us be wise enough to read God’s Word and see how it applies to our lives in the 21st century and accept the Holy Spirit’s conviction for change.

Amen and Amen.

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1 Samuel 10:1-8 (Part 2 of 2)
Samuel Anoints Saul as King

As we sit here on Christmas Eve, but yet we are in the book of Samuel, how can we wrap the Christmas story into this passage. We must remember that the entire Bible from Genesis to Revelation points to Jesus Christ. The thing that we must look at in today’s passage in relation to Jesus Christ is the role of the Holy Spirit here in this passage and how the Holy Spirit deals with us today because of Jesus.

Back in the Old Testament we see temporary visitations of the Holy Spirit upon members of God’s chosen people, Israel, and even upon nonbelievers as temporary measures. Why did the Holy Spirit not indwell people in the pre-gospel days but yet He does now? It is because of what began on Christmas Eve night as labor pains for dear, sweet Mary, the mother of Jesus, and the birth of the Emmanuel, the Messiah, the Christ on Christmas morning. Jesus’ birthday celebration that we call Christmas is a celebration of the fact that Jesus Christ stepped down out of heaven and became flesh. He became flesh for two reasons – to live the perfect and sinless life and to be the once and final, permanent sacrifice for our sins. Upon the cross, by God’s grace, Jesus took on the penalty for all sins of all mankind for all time, past, present and future. What a weighty load of punishment for sin that must have been. No wonder Jesus said, my God, my God, why have you forsaken me. In the pain of the cross, he took the punishment for our sins and washed away our penalty of eternity in hell separated from God by that act. All we have to do is believe that Jesus Christ, indeed, was of one and the same essence of God, and that He arose from the dead to his us hope and victory over sin and death.

It is through believing that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, one of the three expressions of the Trinity of God, that we are made clean. It is through believing in Him as our Savior from our sins and the penalty of hell that we deserve for just one sin (not to mention a lifetime of them) that He imputes his perfect righteousness to us. We are made holy through Jesus paying the penalty for our dirty sins on the cross. We are set free through Jesus Christ on the cross and we are made new through His resurrection. When we believe in Him as our Savior we enjoy the benefits of his purity and righteousness and we are made clean in the eyes of a just and righteous God. And it is through that imputed purity and righteous that the Holy Spirit can come dwell permanently in our souls. Not just a temporary visitation but a setting up of a permanent residence in us. We are indwelled by the Holy Spirit because of the work of Jesus Christ to take away the crimson stain of our sins and makes us holy and righteous and white and pure as snow. Without the birth of Jesus, we have no example of how to be like Him. Without the birth of Jesus, we have no crucifixion. Without the birth of Jesus, Jesus could not die as the perfect, sinless sacrifice for our sins. Without the birth…and death…of Jesus, we cannot have the resurrection which gives us evidence of the belief that He is God. Without the birth…and death…of Jesus, we cannot have the resurrection which gives us evidence of His victory over our sins and his victory over death itself and evidence of the fact that we can indeed enjoy eternity with Jesus in heaven after our own physical death.

Without the birth of Jesus, and his acts or works on earth that make us holy, the Holy Spirit could not indwell us. Jesus makes us pure. He makes our souls clean. He makes our souls pure and holy such that the Holy Spirit can indwell us. For our souls are made a temple for the Holy Spirit through the work of Jesus Christ on earth that began on Christmas morning with His birth. This mission to make us holy and righteous in the sight of God began in a manger. The mission to make us ready for the indwelling of the Holy Spirit began this day in Bethlehem.

With that idea of how Jesus’ birth changed everything including how the Holy Spirit deals with us, Let us read 1 Samuel 10:1-8 together now:

Chapter 10
1 Then Samuel took a flask of olive oil and poured it over Saul’s head. He kissed Saul and said, “I am doing this because the Lord has appointed you to be the ruler over Israel, his special possession.[a] 2 When you leave me today, you will see two men beside Rachel’s tomb at Zelzah, on the border of Benjamin. They will tell you that the donkeys have been found and that your father has stopped worrying about them and is now worried about you. He is asking, ‘Have you seen my son?’

3 “When you get to the oak of Tabor, you will see three men coming toward you who are on their way to worship God at Bethel. One will be bringing three young goats, another will have three loaves of bread, and the third will be carrying a wineskin full of wine. 4 They will greet you and offer you two of the loaves, which you are to accept.

5 “When you arrive at Gibeah of God,[b] where the garrison of the Philistines is located, you will meet a band of prophets coming down from the place of worship. They will be playing a harp, a tambourine, a flute, and a lyre, and they will be prophesying. 6 At that time the Spirit of the Lord will come powerfully upon you, and you will prophesy with them. You will be changed into a different person. 7 After these signs take place, do what must be done, for God is with you. 8 Then go down to Gilgal ahead of me. I will join you there to sacrifice burnt offerings and peace offerings. You must wait for seven days until I arrive and give you further instructions.”

In this passage, we must ask the question, “How could Saul be so filled with the Spirit and yet later commit such evil acts?” Throughout the Old Testament, God’s spirit “came upon” individuals temporarily so that God could use them for great acts. This happened frequently to Israel’s judges when they were called by God to rescue the nation (see Judges 3:8-10, for example). This was not a permanent, abiding influence, but a temporary manifestation of the Holy Spirit. At times, in the Old Testament, the Spirit even came upon unbelievers to enable them to do unusual tasks (see Numbers 24 and 2 Chronicles 36:22-23 as examples) and then depart from them. Saul was a different person in the early years of his reign as a result of the Holy Spirit’s work in him but as his power grew, so did his pride. After a while, he refused to seek God and the Spirit left him.

How are we different from Saul in the post-gospel period, the period of the church? As we have said, Jesus’ birth changed everything. Prior to Jesus’ death and resurrection, the Holy Spirit could not dwell within us in a permanent way. We were not holy on our own. Yes, we could believe in God and thus because of the Trinity believe in Jesus Christ (since the three aspects of the Trinity have coexisted eternally), but before the birth and death of Jesus Christ, they were saved by their faith. Clearly, Old Testament saints were aware of the promised Redeemer, and they were saved by faith in that Savior, the same way people are saved today. However, the benefit that we have in the post-ascension era of Jesus Christ is that we can now have the permanent indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

And oh what a benefit that is. Through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, we are made more and more like Jesus every day. Through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit over a lifetime, he chisels us and hones us into Christlikeness. He points out our sins. He points out what we need to confess and what we need to change to make ourselves more like Christ. Through the indwelling of the Spirit, we are changed daily. Through the indwelling of the Spirit, we know the voice of God. Through the indwelling of the Spirit, we no longer have temporary visitations of the Spirit. Through the indwelling of the Spirit, we bear His fruits that grow greater as He does his work within us. We are permanently and progressively changed by the permanent indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
And it all began this day, with the birth of Jesus Christ as a baby in the flesh. A baby that had a mission to reconcile us to God and to make us holy in God’s sight. Jesus was born this day to do all that. Jesus had a mission from birth. It was to reconcile us with God and to make us holy such that God could again commune with us in the dew of the evening as Adam did before the fall. Just think, because of Jesus and our belief in Him as the Lamb of God, we now have God’s Spirit living within us because of what began this day in Bethlehem.

You are holy through Jesus Christ. All you must do is believe that Jesus Christ was God and He became flesh on this day in Bethlehem some 2,000 years ago to save your soul and make you holy such that God could make His home in your heart.

Amen and Amen.

 

1 Samuel 10:1-8 (Part 1 of 2)
Samuel Anoints Saul as King

Back in the day around 1994-1995, when my youngest daughter was between the ages of 4-5 and my youngest stepson (when I was married to my second wife) was between 2-3, it was in the middle of the second golden age of Disney animated movies and that age of greatness started with the megahit animated classic, The Lion King. I love that movie to this day because, well, it’s a great story but it also reminds me of when my kids were young. Even then my oldest was only 9-10. But when the VHS came out (yes kids there was once a video format called VHS and you had to buy videos of your favorite movies at stores or rent them at Blockbuster…what’s Blockbuster…well, Wayne Huzienga is asking the same thing too), but back when the video came out, my second wife along with moms all over the United States waited in lines at retail stores such as K-Mart and Wal-Mart when The Lion King was released at retail. And, Taylor, my youngest, and Dillon, Trena’s youngest, would sit and watch the Lion King over and over again…and over and over again….and well, over and over again. They played it incessantly every day. Every scene of that movie I began to know by heart. Every song in that film I began to know by heart. If you were a parent of a child born anywhere from 1985 to 1992, you know what I am talking about. Those songs, the dialogue, everything about the movie you remember probably as well as your kids do. Who else remembers, “Mufasa…say it again…Mufassssaaa.” Who remembers, “Talk about ya fixer uppers!” Who remembers, “Pinned ya!…Pinned ya again!”

But one of my favorite sequences of the movie is scene where Simba and Nala are talking about when he grows and will be king of the lions. It’s a tune called, “I Just Can’t Wait to Be King”. With music by Elton John and words written by Tim Rice, the song is performed by the characters of Simba (Jason Weaver), Nala (Laura Williams) and Zazu (Rowan Atkinson) in the film, the lyrics go like this:

I’m gonna be a mighty king, so enemies beware!
(Well, I’ve never seen a king of beasts with quite so little hair)
I’m gonna be the main event, like no king was before
I’m brushing up on looking down, I’m working on my ROAR
(Thus far, a rather…uninspiring thing)
Oh, I just can’t wait to be king!

(You’ve rather a long way to go, young master, if you think…)
No one saying do this
(Now when I said that, I–)
[Nala:] No one saying be there
(What I meant was…)
No one saying stop that
(Look, what you don’t realize…)
[Simba and Nala:] No one saying see here
(Now see here!)
Free to run around all day
(Well, that’s definitely out…)
Free to do it all my way!

(I think it’s time that you and I arranged a heart to heart)
Kings don’t need advice from little hornbills for a start
(If this is where the monarchy is headed, count me out!
Out of service, out of Africa I wouldn’t hang about… aagh!
This child is getting wildly out of wing)
Oh, I just can’t wait to be king!

Everybody look left!
Everybody look right!
Everywhere you look I’m standing in the spotlight!
(Not yet!)

[Chorus]
Let every creature go for broke and sing
Let’s hear it in the herd and on the wing
It’s gonna be King Simba’s finest fling
[Simba and Chorus:] Oh I just can’t wait to be king!
Oh I just can’t wait to be king!
Oh I just can’t waaaaaait … to be king!

To bring back your memories, here is the sequence from the movie:

In this sequence of the movie, this song represents Simba’s desire not to be told what to do. He wanted to be grown up. He wanted it to already be his time to be king. We all can relate to his childhood feelings. We all spend our growing up years wanting to be already grown-up. However, we often don’t take into account the fact that with the freedoms we have as adults that we do not have as children comes greater responsibility. For many of us when we become adults, we begin wishing that we were kids again because we think we had more freedom as kids. In Simba’s case, his adult years required him to have this titanic struggle to regain the throne against Scar. It was at first a battle that he shied away from. He then figured out that anything worthwhile requires sacrifice and struggle and difficulty. Simba finally does take his rightful place as the king of the lions but it is not without difficulty.

What does this animated classic have to do with Saul becoming the first king of Israel? In this passage, we see Saul become king. Based on what we know of Saul later in life, we can envision him having a Simba-like excitement. But with great power comes great responsibility. Saul did not handle it well. When we become leaders its more than just about being in the spotlight as Simba desires in this scene. With that idea in mind, let us read about Saul becoming king now. Let us read 1 Samuel 10:1-8 together now:

Chapter 10
1 Then Samuel took a flask of olive oil and poured it over Saul’s head. He kissed Saul and said, “I am doing this because the Lord has appointed you to be the ruler over Israel, his special possession.[a] 2 When you leave me today, you will see two men beside Rachel’s tomb at Zelzah, on the border of Benjamin. They will tell you that the donkeys have been found and that your father has stopped worrying about them and is now worried about you. He is asking, ‘Have you seen my son?’

3 “When you get to the oak of Tabor, you will see three men coming toward you who are on their way to worship God at Bethel. One will be bringing three young goats, another will have three loaves of bread, and the third will be carrying a wineskin full of wine. 4 They will greet you and offer you two of the loaves, which you are to accept.

5 “When you arrive at Gibeah of God,[b] where the garrison of the Philistines is located, you will meet a band of prophets coming down from the place of worship. They will be playing a harp, a tambourine, a flute, and a lyre, and they will be prophesying. 6 At that time the Spirit of the Lord will come powerfully upon you, and you will prophesy with them. You will be changed into a different person. 7 After these signs take place, do what must be done, for God is with you. 8 Then go down to Gilgal ahead of me. I will join you there to sacrifice burnt offerings and peace offerings. You must wait for seven days until I arrive and give you further instructions.”

In this passage, we see the beginning of the ceremony surrounding the coronation and anointing of Israelite kings. When an Israelite king took office, he was not only crowned but he was also anointed. The coronation was the political act of establishing the king as ruler. The anointing was the spiritual act of making the king God’s representative to the people. A king was always anointed by a priest or a prophet. The special anointing oil was a mixture of olive oil, myrrh, and other expensive spices. It was poured over the king’s head to symbolize the presence and power of the Holy Spirit of God in his life. This anointing ceremony was to remind the king of his great responsibility to lead his people by God’s wisdom and not his own.

Saul did what He was told at first by Samuel as we see in this passage. But what we know of Saul is that he was a very self-centered man who became consumed with his position. He reminds us much of Scar from The Lion King. Scar was the lion who usurped the throne from Mufasa and chased off Mufasa’s rightful heir, his son, Simba. Scar was so consumed with enjoying the spoils of being king that he destroyed the kingdom. He was not a good leader and the kingdom of the lions suffered to the point that Timon uttered the famous line when he saw the kingdom for the first time, “talk about ya fixer uppers!” With great power comes great responsibility. We can learn much from Saul and from the Scar and from Simba.

Saul did what he was told in this passage and was even filled with the spirit here at the beginning of his reign to the point where he prophesied. However, he became obsessed with his power and his position and almost destroyed the kingdom. Similarly, Scar almost destroyed the kingdom of the lions in The Lion King because he was obsessed with his position, about erasing the memory of the great king, Mufasa, and about what the kingdom could do for him. As well, Simba, as a child wanted all the fun of being king but did not know of its responsibilities. Further, Simba avoided taking on the responsibility of saving his kingdom until it was almost too late.

As leaders in the church, we must take heed the lessons of Saul, Simba, and Scar. We can start off in ministry filled with spirit and passion because it’s new and fresh and it seems like so much fun being a minister or a leader in the church. But we must count the cost of leadership of souls as well. We must always remember the good of God’s kingdom. We cannot make our leadership about what it can do for us. We cannot make our appointments to leadership in the church as part of some grand political game – if I ally myself with this group, it will help me get this done or that done. We as leaders cannot make it about maintaining some power structure. We as leaders cannot make our leadership about positioning ourselves for the next thing, the next appointment, the next higher leadership role.

We must always think of the good of God’s kingdom first. We must make everything we do about Jesus Christ and representing him well. We must make it about giving him glory and not ourselves. We must make everything about (1) whether it expands God kingdom by reaching more and more lost people and (2) making our people fully devoted disciples of Jesus Christ in every aspect of their lives who attract others to Jesus Christ. When we make our leadership about us, we become like Saul and Scar and scorch the earth around us. When make our leadership about the fun of being in power like young Simba, we fail to see that we must think of others more than ourselves when we are in leadership. We must take on the responsibilities of being in leadership which can be quite heavy and unfair at times and do the hard things that need doing because we have giving God the glory through our actions as our prime directive. May we always keep the good of God’s kingdom in view when we lead. May we always make drawing people unto Christ and then helping them grow deeper and deeper in their relationship with Jesus Christ what we are about. Always.

Amen and Amen.

1 Samuel 9:1-27 (Part 2 of 2)
Saul Meets Samuel

Here lately, it seems that in reading through Judges and so far in 1 Samuel, there has been this constant reminder of times past in my life when I was constantly trying to find or validate my value by how the woman in my life felt about me. And, the thing is…these reminders are not an issue of me blaming someone, some woman, for the mistakes and detours and winding roads that my life has taken. I do not blame any of the women in my past for me being the person that I was and still to a certain extent still am.

There of course have been three major women in my life – Lisa, my high school sweetheart, first wife, and mother of my two daughters; Trena, my second wife; and now, Elena, my third and damn well better be my final wife. But in between Lisa and Trena and Trena and Elena, there were other women that I dated as well. All of it, I was willing to do anything, say anything, be anything to gain approval and what I thought was love. It was not until I met Elena (and the unique way God developed our relationship that was completely and utterly different from all of my other relationships) that I began to see that my value was not defined by a woman’s feelings for me. My value was not in jumping through hoops so I could get a doggie biscuit for good behavior. I do not blame Lisa, Trena or any woman that I dated more than a couple of times for me being a person who sought value by how they felt about me. I had such a dreaded fear of being alone that I allowed women to determine the terms of our relationship and being normal human beings these ladies took the territory that was unoccupied and claimed it for themselves. People will by nature take the power that you allow them to have. I use to blame them but now I don’t. I allowed them to “wear the pants in the family” instead of taking that role as a man should. Through God’s guidance, he led me to Elena’s door and because of circumstances of my employment not long after we began dating, our relationship developed differently than all my others.

We had to become friends as much as lovers because I was gone at least 5 days a week at the beginning of our relationship and then at least 3 weeks at the time after that before we were able to have a normal relationship where you could see each other every day. During those years, October 2007-August 2009, we had to talk on the phone, video chat, instant message, and email each other. The way I had measured the success of relationships before was off the table because of the lack of proximity. We had to become friends. We had to reveal our pasts to each other. We had share hopes and dreams and all our woulda/coulda/shoulda’s. And through all that process of God processing us, I learned something amazing – a woman could actually love me for me, for who I am, and not what I thought they wanted me to be. That is the thing that makes Elena so profound in my life is that, even though there are probably a million things wrong with me that she could probably name, she just loves me for the unique creation of God that I am, for the man born into a fallen world that I am, for the sinner that I was and sinner that I am who is saved by grace through faith. The love that my wife has for me. The love that Elena has for me is just simple acceptance. She loves me for who I am. She praises the things that I do well and prays for the things about me that need to change. She doesn’t try to mold me into some perfect man, this perfect ideal of what she thinks a husband should be. She knew all my hidden secrets and issues long before we married because of the way our relationship developed – the way that I thank God for now.

It has been such a relief to be in a relationship where I do not feel like I have to perform to like a show pony to get treats or to avoid negative reinforcement. To break that cycle has allowed me to have real love but it also allowed me to see God, to see my value in Him, to have nothing blocking my view of Him. It is only since then that I have begun to grow in the grace and truth of Jesus Christ.

With that in mind, let us read this passage and see how Saul and insecurity and finding his value in the horizontal view instead of the vertical view clouded him from becoming the king that he could have been. Let’s read 1 Samuel 9:1-27 together right now:

9 There was a wealthy, influential man named Kish from the tribe of Benjamin. He was the son of Abiel, son of Zeror, son of Becorath, son of Aphiah, of the tribe of Benjamin. 2 His son Saul was the most handsome man in Israel—head and shoulders taller than anyone else in the land.

3 One day Kish’s donkeys strayed away, and he told Saul, “Take a servant with you, and go look for the donkeys.” 4 So Saul took one of the servants and traveled through the hill country of Ephraim, the land of Shalishah, the Shaalim area, and the entire land of Benjamin, but they couldn’t find the donkeys anywhere.

5 Finally, they entered the region of Zuph, and Saul said to his servant, “Let’s go home. By now my father will be more worried about us than about the donkeys!”

6 But the servant said, “I’ve just thought of something! There is a man of God who lives here in this town. He is held in high honor by all the people because everything he says comes true. Let’s go find him. Perhaps he can tell us which way to go.”

7 “But we don’t have anything to offer him,” Saul replied. “Even our food is gone, and we don’t have a thing to give him.”

8 “Well,” the servant said, “I have one small silver piece.[a] We can at least offer it to the man of God and see what happens!” 9 (In those days if people wanted a message from God, they would say, “Let’s go and ask the seer,” for prophets used to be called seers.)

10 “All right,” Saul agreed, “let’s try it!” So they started into the town where the man of God lived.

11 As they were climbing the hill to the town, they met some young women coming out to draw water. So Saul and his servant asked, “Is the seer here today?”

12 “Yes,” they replied. “Stay right on this road. He is at the town gates. He has just arrived to take part in a public sacrifice up at the place of worship. 13 Hurry and catch him before he goes up there to eat. The guests won’t begin eating until he arrives to bless the food.”

14 So they entered the town, and as they passed through the gates, Samuel was coming out toward them to go up to the place of worship.

15 Now the Lord had told Samuel the previous day, 16 “About this time tomorrow I will send you a man from the land of Benjamin. Anoint him to be the leader of my people, Israel. He will rescue them from the Philistines, for I have looked down on my people in mercy and have heard their cry.”

17 When Samuel saw Saul, the Lord said, “That’s the man I told you about! He will rule my people.”

18 Just then Saul approached Samuel at the gateway and asked, “Can you please tell me where the seer’s house is?”

19 “I am the seer!” Samuel replied. “Go up to the place of worship ahead of me. We will eat there together, and in the morning I’ll tell you what you want to know and send you on your way. 20 And don’t worry about those donkeys that were lost three days ago, for they have been found. And I am here to tell you that you and your family are the focus of all Israel’s hopes.”

21 Saul replied, “But I’m only from the tribe of Benjamin, the smallest tribe in Israel, and my family is the least important of all the families of that tribe! Why are you talking like this to me?”

22 Then Samuel brought Saul and his servant into the hall and placed them at the head of the table, honoring them above the thirty special guests. 23 Samuel then instructed the cook to bring Saul the finest cut of meat, the piece that had been set aside for the guest of honor. 24 So the cook brought in the meat and placed it before Saul. “Go ahead and eat it,” Samuel said. “I was saving it for you even before I invited these others!” So Saul ate with Samuel that day.

25 When they came down from the place of worship and returned to town, Samuel took Saul up to the roof of the house and prepared a bed for him there.[b] 26 At daybreak the next morning, Samuel called to Saul, “Get up! It’s time you were on your way.” So Saul got ready, and he and Samuel left the house together. 27 When they reached the edge of town, Samuel told Saul to send his servant on ahead. After the servant was gone, Samuel said, “Stay here, for I have received a special message for you from God.”

In this passage, we see that Saul’s outburst, “Why are you talking like this to me?”, reveals a problem he would face repeatedly – feeling inferior. Like a leaf tossed in the wind, Saul vacillated between his feelings and his convictions. Everything he said and did was selfish because he was worried about himself. Saul did not want to face up to the responsibility God had given him by trying to pass it off that his family was nothing from a nothing tribe. Although Saul had been called by God and had a mission in life, he struggled constantly with jealousy, insecurity, arrogance, impulsiveness, and deceit. He did not decide to be wholeheartedly committed to God. Because Saul refused to see that in God’s love that he would find his personal value and true peace and rest, he never became God’s man.

Our value comes from God. It does not come from others. When we make what others think of us we live in insecurity, jealousy, impulsiveness. Let me tell you from my own personal experience, this fact is so true. I cannot tell you how I look back in horror at the decisions that I made based on how the woman in my life felt about me. I look back in horror not at the fact that they filled the vacuum that I left open for them but rather that I was so weak that I allowed it to happen. I did not find my value in God so I tried to find it other people. I tried to find it in approval. It was a rollercoaster ride of my own making. It was making a god out of the woman in my life. It was making something other than God my god. That is what I see in Saul. I can identify with his weaknesses. He sought approval and popularity and to make himself feel good about who he was through the actions he took. They could be inconsistent, contradictory, and sometimes just morally wrong. Saul didn’t care about all that. He just wanted to make himself feel good, look good, and be approved of.

Saul and me could have been in the same support group comparing notes and stupid mistakes and then wishing that we would have learned sooner to make the one true God our God and not the approval of others our god. Thank God for me that God did align things in my life so that I can finally see beyond the cloudiness of idol worship to see Him in the brightest of the sunshine of His glory. I am His child. I have value that comes from Him. I trust Him to lead my path.

Amen and Amen.

1 Samuel 9:1-27 (Part 1 of 2)
Saul Meets Samuel

The move to Rock Hill, SC after having lived in Greenville, SC area for 29 years (from age 14 to age 43) was a monumental move for me. Even though it was only an hour and a half away over in the metro Charlotte, NC area, it might as well have been a move to a foreign country for me. From age 0 to 14, as a Methodist preacher’s kid, I moved a lot but after my parents moved from the Greenville area when I was 18, I stayed behind and lived there til I was 43. So, the move was a major one for me. From January 2006 until September 2007, I worked as audit and compliance director for a company called Metromedia, Inc. Little did I know when I took the job the company was on the market to be sold to a foreign investment firm in London. Finally, the sale took place and the investment firm closed our corporate office down and would assume all those corporate functions over in Europe where all our telecommunications holdings were located anyway. With the sale and office shutdown, I was without a job. So, the whole moving the Charlotte seemed kind of senseless at that point from a professional standpoint. Now, here I was living in Charlotte area, alone, without a job, and my entire life history and my kids back in Greenville. This seemed like some tragic cruel Greek theatre of ancient times.

However, the whole point of moving to Rock Hill, SC was not being in the Charlotte area for my professional life. That was not the case, because I ended up only living in the Charlotte area from January 2006 to May 2008. And the irony of it all was that after my job was eliminated at Metromedia in September 2007, I ended up with a consulting firm called Vaco Resources that sent me on a long term assignment, guess where, in the Greenville, SC area (Duncan, SC to be exact). So, I was back in the Greenville area during the week (where I had lived for 29 years) and back to “home” in Rock Hill on the weekends from October 2007 through May 2008. It was so weird that I lived in Rock Hill but was working back in the Greenville area. Weird huh? So, what in the world could have been the purpose of Rock Hill in my life. Seems like a bad decision almost to have moved away from the place that I ended up back at.

But there was so much more to the time in Rock Hill that was necessary in my life. First, it taught me that I live somewhere other than Greenville, SC and that the world would not come crashing down if I did. My kids would adjust. Second, it taught me to embrace something new, a new world to explore. Third, it taught me to be my own man – to break free from the living my life to please a woman lifestyle – and that it is OK for you to be in charge of your own life, not having to get approval from someone else. Although this part of my life was painful – learning to be my own person – and the withdrawal from gaining approval from Trena or Lisa or whomever I was in a relationship with was difficult. It was finally in Rock Hill that I came to the conclusion that my life was not defined by having a woman in my bed and not to quit accepting relationships that we bad for me just so I could have a woman in my life. That was important and that lead to the main reason God had this brief stint in Rock Hill for me.

Without this final point, the whole move to Rock Hill would just seem like a random miscalculation in my professional career and in my personal life. However, the whole point of Rock Hill was to have the things in the previous paragraph happen that would ready me for the real reason that I moved to Rock Hill. It was so that I would meet Elena. That seemingly chance meeting at the laundry center/postal center at our apartment complex in Rock Hill was the reason for the move to Rock Hill. Now, when I look back at all the things that Elena and I have been through in the past decade together and how we have been so good for each other. How we ended up in California where we met Luke and Felisha and Livermore Alive Community Church where Elena accepted Christ as her Savior and Lord and where I finally began to grow up as a Christ follower. How that time there seemed to be so short and then we moved home to South Carolina and for me back to the Greenville, SC area. How Elena helped me to learn to live on less and not blow money foolishly. How we have been able to pay off debts and live more simply (and live more happily and generously as a result). How we found LifeSong Church in Lyman, SC. How we have been developed into leaders in the church there and how we are ready for God’s call to full-time ministry when it does finally come.

None of this, none of it, would have happened without the intersection of our lives, Elena and me, that was brought about when I moved to Rock Hill in January 2006. How much different would my life be right now without the circumstances that brought me to the place where moving to the Charlotte area seemed like a new start, a new beginning, and a risk that I was willing to take. Everything after that has changed everything. Everything after that hinges on that one decision to leave Greenville. It may seem like some random set of circumstances to you but all of it – Greenville to Rock Hill to the San Francisco Bay Area to Lyman-Duncan, SC area – but God was creating intersections that needed to happen in His plan for my life. There’s nothing random about it.

With that in mind, let us read this passage and see how something seemingly random is part of God’s plan. Let’s read 1 Samuel 9:1-27 together right now:

Chapter 9

1There was a wealthy, influential man named Kish from the tribe of Benjamin. He was the son of Abiel, son of Zeror, son of Becorath, son of Aphiah, of the tribe of Benjamin. 2 His son Saul was the most handsome man in Israel—head and shoulders taller than anyone else in the land.

3 One day Kish’s donkeys strayed away, and he told Saul, “Take a servant with you, and go look for the donkeys.” 4 So Saul took one of the servants and traveled through the hill country of Ephraim, the land of Shalishah, the Shaalim area, and the entire land of Benjamin, but they couldn’t find the donkeys anywhere.

5 Finally, they entered the region of Zuph, and Saul said to his servant, “Let’s go home. By now my father will be more worried about us than about the donkeys!”

6 But the servant said, “I’ve just thought of something! There is a man of God who lives here in this town. He is held in high honor by all the people because everything he says comes true. Let’s go find him. Perhaps he can tell us which way to go.”

7 “But we don’t have anything to offer him,” Saul replied. “Even our food is gone, and we don’t have a thing to give him.”

8 “Well,” the servant said, “I have one small silver piece.[a] We can at least offer it to the man of God and see what happens!” 9 (In those days if people wanted a message from God, they would say, “Let’s go and ask the seer,” for prophets used to be called seers.)

10 “All right,” Saul agreed, “let’s try it!” So they started into the town where the man of God lived.

11 As they were climbing the hill to the town, they met some young women coming out to draw water. So Saul and his servant asked, “Is the seer here today?”

12 “Yes,” they replied. “Stay right on this road. He is at the town gates. He has just arrived to take part in a public sacrifice up at the place of worship. 13 Hurry and catch him before he goes up there to eat. The guests won’t begin eating until he arrives to bless the food.”

14 So they entered the town, and as they passed through the gates, Samuel was coming out toward them to go up to the place of worship.

15 Now the Lord had told Samuel the previous day, 16 “About this time tomorrow I will send you a man from the land of Benjamin. Anoint him to be the leader of my people, Israel. He will rescue them from the Philistines, for I have looked down on my people in mercy and have heard their cry.”

17 When Samuel saw Saul, the Lord said, “That’s the man I told you about! He will rule my people.”

18 Just then Saul approached Samuel at the gateway and asked, “Can you please tell me where the seer’s house is?”

19 “I am the seer!” Samuel replied. “Go up to the place of worship ahead of me. We will eat there together, and in the morning I’ll tell you what you want to know and send you on your way. 20 And don’t worry about those donkeys that were lost three days ago, for they have been found. And I am here to tell you that you and your family are the focus of all Israel’s hopes.”

21 Saul replied, “But I’m only from the tribe of Benjamin, the smallest tribe in Israel, and my family is the least important of all the families of that tribe! Why are you talking like this to me?”

22 Then Samuel brought Saul and his servant into the hall and placed them at the head of the table, honoring them above the thirty special guests. 23 Samuel then instructed the cook to bring Saul the finest cut of meat, the piece that had been set aside for the guest of honor. 24 So the cook brought in the meat and placed it before Saul. “Go ahead and eat it,” Samuel said. “I was saving it for you even before I invited these others!” So Saul ate with Samuel that day.

25 When they came down from the place of worship and returned to town, Samuel took Saul up to the roof of the house and prepared a bed for him there.[b] 26 At daybreak the next morning, Samuel called to Saul, “Get up! It’s time you were on your way.” So Saul got ready, and he and Samuel left the house together. 27 When they reached the edge of town, Samuel told Saul to send his servant on ahead. After the servant was gone, Samuel said, “Stay here, for I have received a special message for you from God.”

In this passage, we remind ourselves that we often think that events just happen to us, but as we learn from this story about Saul, God may use common everyday events to lead us to where He wants us to be. It is important to evaluate all situations as potential divine appointments designed to shape our lives. Think of all the good and bad circumstances that have shaped your life. Can you see God’s purpose in the process? Perhaps we should learn to bathe our life decisions in prayer such that we can discern that life’s next step is the right one. Perhaps we should learn to trust the Lord that even a monumental change that seems oh so frightening and oh so scary and oh so different from our current, safe life is where He wants us to go. How much do you trust the Lord? Maybe in the random, scary, different, unknown things that God has laid in front of your there will be an intersection with people, events, and changes to your soul that God has intended for you. Trust the Lord! Take that first step into what God is calling you forward to do.

Maybe you will find your Rock Hill. Maybe you will find that defining moment that changes everything. Maybe….just maybe.

Amen and Amen.

 

Some years back, Jeff Foxworthy had this schtick, You might be a redneck if…

Today I am going to usurp that phrase for a bit and say, you might be a secularized church, if…

As a member of what we may call, for the lack of a better term, “modern church”, we can get labeled as being part of the secularization of the Christian church. Although it is wholly wrong about our church, many “modern church” movement churches can exemplify that label and ruin the name of those modern churches that truly are after God’s own heart. According to Charisma magazine, there are traits of a secularized church that we must all check ourselves against in the modern church movement.

The first sign is that pastors steer away from teaching anything in the Bible that is counter to the cultural norms. The gospel is presented only in part and Jesus comes off as a buddy rather than Lord and Savior. Jesus is more of a self-help guru and purveyor of positive thoughts than he is the judge and ruler of the universe. Biblical views that are highly unpopular into today’s age of tolerance such as its views on sexuality, both unwed heterosexuality and all homosexuality, are avoided and not presented. Premarital sex and co-habitation before marriage is never challenged as against biblical morality. Thus, there are many in the pews or chairs of modern church who do not understand the Bible’s view of the sanctity of sexual relationships being restricted to the marriage bed.

Further, because of secularization where homosexuality is an acceptable relationship mode, many modern churches avoid the subject of homosexuality altogether. Or they have developed a theology that states that was an Old Testament prohibition (forgetting that Paul spoke on the issue in no uncertain terms in several of his letters to the churches). Or they develop a theology of where the it is rationalized that Jesus never directly spoke on homosexuality and they will just believe what Jesus says in the Bible and nothing else. Or they develop a theology where they say indiscriminate homosexual acts were condemned by the Bible whereas committed homosexual relationships are OK.

Further, if members of your church see living the nightclub lifestyle of partying and getting drunk where lapses in moral judgment often result as being OK. Not that there’s anything wrong with an occasional night out on the town but getting drunk and participating in hedonistic activities just like an unbeliever and thinking that its normal and OK and that we are covered by grace anyway, then, your church has become secularized. If people are allowed to assume positions of leadership in your church without any kind of vetting concerning their lifestyle choices in comparison to Scripture, then, your church has become secularized. When the church compromises biblical principles just to reach a segment of people, your church has been secularized. When your church’s primary focus is to attract large crowds and have lavish productions as the big idea rather than the truth of the gospel (which often can be countercultural), then, your church become secularized. If Jesus is presented as simply your personal Savior and not the Lord of all where all things and all peoples are subject to the one true God of the universe, then, your church has become secularized. If Jesus is not presented as the one and only way to reconcile ourselves with the Judge and Creator God then your church has become secularized.

That’s the thing that I thought of this morning is how some modern churches have sold their souls to the culture in the name of being culturally relevant and in the name of church growth when I read about how God’s people in this passage clamored to be just like the cultures surrounding them. So, with that thought in mind, let us read 1 Samuel 8:10-22 together now:

10 So Samuel passed on the Lord’s warning to the people who were asking him for a king. 11 “This is how a king will reign over you,” Samuel said. “The king will draft your sons and assign them to his chariots and his charioteers, making them run before his chariots. 12 Some will be generals and captains in his army,[a] some will be forced to plow in his fields and harvest his crops, and some will make his weapons and chariot equipment. 13 The king will take your daughters from you and force them to cook and bake and make perfumes for him. 14 He will take away the best of your fields and vineyards and olive groves and give them to his own officials. 15 He will take a tenth of your grain and your grape harvest and distribute it among his officers and attendants. 16 He will take your male and female slaves and demand the finest of your cattle[b] and donkeys for his own use. 17 He will demand a tenth of your flocks, and you will be his slaves. 18 When that day comes, you will beg for relief from this king you are demanding, but then the Lord will not help you.”

19 But the people refused to listen to Samuel’s warning. “Even so, we still want a king,” they said. 20 “We want to be like the nations around us. Our king will judge us and lead us into battle.”

21 So Samuel repeated to the Lord what the people had said, 22 and the Lord replied, “Do as they say, and give them a king.” Then Samuel agreed and sent the people home.

In this passage, we remember that Israel was called to be a holy nation, separate and unique among all nations (see Leviticus 20:26). The Israelites’ motive in asking for a king was to be like the nations around them. This motive was in total opposition to God’s plan. It was not that their desire for a king was wrong, but their reasons were. Often, we let other people’s values dictate our own attitudes and behavior. Have you ever made a wrong choice because you wanted to be like everyone else? Be careful that the values of your friends or heroes don’t pull you away from what God says is right. When God’s people want to be like unbelievers, they are heading for spiritual disaster.

Although there is nothing wrong with trying to be relevant in the way we attract people to our churches. There are many people who just do not connect with suits and ties and plush carpets and pews with cushions that match the carpet and stained glass windows and balconies and choirs with choir robes and pastors in robes and acolytes and symbolism and tradition and fancy ornate buildings and hymns that were written 150 to 300 years ago. Just because a church has modern music, minimalistic buildings, people coming to church in blue jeans, and preachers with jeans and their shirt-tails hanging out does not make them automatically a secularized church. But what we do to attract people cannot take precedence over the gospel.

There can be no watering down of what the Bible says. And we must preach the whole of the gospel. We must disciple our members to see that God expects us to give Him glory through out we live our lives and sometimes how we live our lives is in opposition to the culture. May we teach our people that we sometimes must decide if we are going to please God or just ignore Him and try to fit in with the secular world cause its easier.

Thank God, my senior pastor and our church leadership in our very modern church with all the hip and cool modern church trappings will never let any of that come before the truth of God’s Word. We will never participate in anything that is in opposition of God’s Word. That’s why after attracting people the way we do they are confronted with the truth of the Bible and they must make a decision – to be changed by it through the Holy Spirit or flee from our midst. Let us never become like some – a secularized church.

Amen and Amen.

1 Samuel 8:1-9
Israel Requests a King

Last night I finished one of the books I have to read for my next semester (my third semester) in my doctoral program. I am not the fastest reader in the world so I began reading the first of 10 books I have to read before the end of the third week in February on Monday night. This first book was probably the shortest (and smallest) of the books I have to read. It was entitled Autopsy of a Deceased Church. In this short 100-page book, Thomas Rainer had done research on the deaths of 14 different churches and from that research developed the common themes of why churches decline and die. To add to what Rainer states in his book I found that in a recent sermon, Pastor James McDonald from Walking in the Word Ministries revealed these shocking numbers about Christianity in America:

• Of the 250,000 Protestant churches in America, 200,000 are either stagnant (with no growth) or declining. That is 80% of the churches in America and maybe the one you attend, if you attend at all.

• 4,000 churches close their doors every single year.

• There is less than half of the number of churches today than there were only 100 years ago.

• 3,500 people leave the church every single day.

• Since 1950, there are 1/3 fewer churches in the U.S.

Thomas Rainer bolsters the above statistics by saying that only 10% of churches in America are truly healthy, 40% of churches are showing signs of sickness, 40% of churches are sick and dying, and 10% of churches are about to die. The main troubles of sick and/or dying churches, according to Rainer? His research of these 14 churches, these “autopsies” of churches that died, revealed some interesting facts. They became increasingly inward focused over the years. They became resistant to change. Their budgets became less and less focused on outreach and more and more focused on programs to serve the needs of the people within the church. They became more like the old Janet Jackson song from 1986, “What Have You Done for ME Lately?” As funds dwindled due to the slow decline of membership, the first things that were cut was the very thing that they needed to be spending their money on – reaching out into their communities. They became fearful of the world around them and had defeatist attitudes about reaching their town with evangelistic efforts. And most of all, they quit praying fervently in a corporate fashion. Sure, they would pray before church meals and during services but there was no longer is passion corporately to pray for the lost and for ways to reach them. There was little if any discipleship. Church became about traditions and resistance to change. Church became a social club. Often these churches that died, clamored for more people and often switched pastors often when that did not happen. However, pastors who came in and wanted to make sweeping changes to “stop the bleeding” were often rebuffed because people did not ultimately want to give up leadership to new people, did not want to give up traditions. Did not want “that kind” of change. They wanted to continue doing what they were doing but get a different result.

They lost sight of what the church was for. The church is not for them. The church is there for the lost, to draw them unto Christ, and then to develop them into fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ. We must be obedient in this effort as a church or your church, my church, any church will die. What does this have to do with today’s passage where Israel is clamoring to have a king? Everything as we will see. Let us read the passage, 1 Samuel 8:1-9, once again together:

8 As Samuel grew old, he appointed his sons to be judges over Israel. 2 Joel and Abijah, his oldest sons, held court in Beersheba. 3 But they were not like their father, for they were greedy for money. They accepted bribes and perverted justice.

4 Finally, all the elders of Israel met at Ramah to discuss the matter with Samuel. 5 “Look,” they told him, “you are now old, and your sons are not like you. Give us a king to judge us like all the other nations have.”

6 Samuel was displeased with their request and went to the Lord for guidance. 7 “Do everything they say to you,” the Lord replied, “for they are rejecting me, not you. They don’t want me to be their king any longer. 8 Ever since I brought them from Egypt they have continually abandoned me and followed other gods. And now they are giving you the same treatment. 9 Do as they ask, but solemnly warn them about the way a king will reign over them.”

In this passage, we see that the people clamored for a king, thinking that a new system of government would bring about a change in the nation. However, their basic problem was disobedience to God. Their other problems would only continue under the new form of administration. What they needed was a unified faith in God not a unified form of governance. Had the Israelites submitted to God’s leadership, they would have thrived beyond their expectations (see Deuteronomy 28:1). Our obedience to God’s commands as his newest expression of “His people”, the church, is crucial to our ability to thrive as instruments of God.

Jesus commanded his church to go. Jesus commanded his church to make disciples of all peoples. Jesus commanded them to baptize people in the name of the three expressions of the Trinity (the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit). Jesus commanded us to teach them everything that He taught us. The Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20) is what we are here for – nothing else. We are not here to build buildings with our names on them. We are not here to use church to build a power base. We are not here for me to have a professional network so that I make all the right contacts “because we go to the same church”. We are not here to have a place to entertain our kids. We are not here to be babysitters for your kids. We are not here to have our names on pews, windows, or classrooms. We are not here to make ourselves feel good. Even in modern church, we are not here to have the cool church. We are not here to have field trips for our teenagers. We are not here to have the most expensive lighting and sound system in town. We are not here to have the loudest band and the band with the most albums out there on Christian radio. Sure, we can have those things but they cannot be the things that we are here. They must be byproducts of a church that is obedient to its calling from Jesus Christ.

We must go. We must focus our money and our people on sharing the gospel in their day to day lives. We must urge them to see the urgency of what is at stake – the eternal destination of our friends, neighbors, co-workers, extended families, all those in our individual spheres of influence. We must remind our people that their a members of a priestly order. They are ministers themselves. They can touch more people themselves than our pastors can ever dream of reaching by themselves. We are the church. Let us go. Let us get out there and share the gospel. Let us share the gospel not in just how we act and carry ourselves but actually sharing the gospel. Let us teach our people to think with a kingdom mindset – to think of every situation as an opportunity to share the good news of Jesus Christ. We must “Go” if we are “to make disciples. We must go if we are to baptize. We must go if we are to teach. We cannot do any of the last three subcommands of the Great Commission if we are not obedient in the going.

When we quit going, we start dying. When we are disobedient in the going, we quit thriving and a church begins its slow death march to the closing of the doors of a church. Just as Israel clamored for a king, thinking a change would make them thrive again, we often clamor for change as our churches decline. However, just as Israel did not change its ways and continued in its disobedience to the Lord and it began its slow death march toward the end of what we knew as ancient Israel, we too as churches cannot expect renewal unless we are obedient to the commands of the Lord. We must change our ways or more churches will close. We must move away from church becoming self-serving. We must never forget the passion for the lost. We must not lose our love for the going. We must not lose our love for baptizing and teaching. We must not lose our love for making disciples.

The commands are simple. That is what we are here for. That is what we must be obedient toward. Nothing else. It’s all very simple. It is about going. It is about making disciples. It is about baptizing. It is about teaching. If your church or my church becomes about anything other than being obedient to this commands, then, we too like many other churches every year and like the nation of ancient Israel, we will die. God does not bless disobedience. He blesses obedience. Everything we do as a church must be measured by whether it represents:

1. Going
2. Baptizing
3. Teaching
4. Making Disciples

Everything. Everything must be measured by our obedience to these four simple commands. Anything else is not worthy of doing. Anything else is disobedience.

Amen and Amen.