1 Samuel 13:1-14 (Part 2 of 3)
War with Philistia, Saul’s Disobedience, and Samuel’s Rebuke

There was a song by the late, great Tom Petty entitled “The Waiting is the Hardest Part”. The title of the song is appropriate for today’s lesson. Saul could not stand the waiting so he decided to take it upon himself to offer a sacrifice to God. He was impatient on God’s timing.

Sometimes, I get that way too. Ever since God gave me the desire to go into ministry, there has been a lot of waiting. What is it that He wants from me? I have been waiting for six years. Sure, there has been preparation to go through that I thoroughly believe was necessary. Getting my masters degree in Christian ministry was an eye-opening and faith-deepening experience for which I am eternally grateful. My understanding of Scripture and eagerness to be in God’s Word was exponentially increased by that experience. But it was my expectation that as soon as my degree was handed to me by NGU President, at that time, Dr. Epting, that the skies would open up and a church would magically call me to be their pastor or a large church would call me to be their executive pastor or that God would give me a burning desire to start a church in some community somewhere. That was back in May 2014 when I graduated.

Since then there have been lots of applications for executive or administrative pastor positions through Vanderbloemen and churchstaffing.com. There have been four positions for which I have been granted phone interviews. Two of those resulted in follow-up video call interviews. One of those resulted in an over the weekend visit on-site. That one was this time last year, back in January 2017. On that one, my wife and I came oh so close to landing the administrative pastor’s position for a church in north central Ohio. After that, it has been a yearlong dry streak for on-site interviews. We have another one coming up next weekend. The waiting has been the hardest part. The difference between this one upcoming and the rest is that I did not apply for this job. The church’s founding pastor sought me out after doing a search for candidates on churchstaffing.com. So, this one feels different than the other jobs I have pursued.

When we went through the extended interview process last November 2016-January 2017 for the position at the church in Ohio, I felt like I needed to press. I felt like I needed to do and say the right things in the process. It seemed to me that I was pressing. I was like a quarterback whose team is down by two touchdowns with a quarter left to play in the game and who thinks he has to make plays and he presses and overdoes it and throws an interception. Instead of letting the game come to him, he presses and makes a mistake. That was how I felt. Nervous. Pressing. Trying to do things under my own power.

However, this time around, a year later, it is almost as if I don’t care if I get the job or not. This job is farther away than the one in Ohio last year (sometimes I argue with God – why can’t you put me in position for a job around here, why do you grant me interviews for jobs 8-12 hours away from South Carolina?). This time around, I am not putting any pressure on the process myself. I am going into this next weekend with the attitude of “if God wants this, He will make it happen!” Maybe, it’s because the job is far away from home in a much colder climate. The low temperatures next weekend are projected to a raw temperature of 6 and 7 degrees the two nights we will spend there. The wind chills for overnight lows those two nights will be subzero. Maybe, I have just resigned myself to always just being on the edge of ministry and never really in it. Maybe, it was the severe disappointment of what happened this time last year. Maybe, though, this time, I am just letting the Holy Spirit take hold of the process. Last January, I was going in looking for reasons to take the job. This January, I am going in looking for reasons not to take the position and only one reason to take it. That reason being that the Holy Spirit will make it abundantly clear, I mean really and abundantly clear, to both Elena and me that this church is the place where we are supposed to go. I am going in with no expectations and no desires other than that. There will be a million reasons for us not to pack up and go and only one reason why we should – that God has made it abundantly and expressly clear that this assignment is what is next for us, no other reason.

That’s the lesson from last January to this January. Let God lead and not try to make this happen in your own power. I mean I am not going up there trying to flub it up and not get the job, but I am going up there with no pressure in my heart. I have simply decided to wait on God. That is the thing that I thought of this morning as I read through this passage, 1 Samuel 13:1-14, this morning for the second of three readings of it – that idea of trying to push God along because we are impatient. That idea of how Saul was pressing and was not patient. That idea of how Saul simply did not wait on God to reveal. Let’s read the passage now:

Chapter 13
1 Saul was thirty years old when he became king, and he reigned for forty-two years. 2 Saul selected 3,000 special troops from the army of Israel and sent the rest of the men home. He took 2,000 of the chosen men with him to Micmash and the hill country of Bethel. The other 1,000 went with Saul’s son Jonathan to Gibeah in the land of Benjamin.

3 Soon after this, Jonathan attacked and defeated the garrison of Philistines at Geba. The news spread quickly among the Philistines. So Saul blew the ram’s horn throughout the land, saying, “Hebrews, hear this! Rise up in revolt!” 4 All Israel heard the news that Saul had destroyed the Philistine garrison at Geba and that the Philistines now hated the Israelites more than ever. So the entire Israelite army was summoned to join Saul at Gilgal.

5 The Philistines mustered a mighty army of 3,000[c] chariots, 6,000 charioteers, and as many warriors as the grains of sand on the seashore! They camped at Micmash east of Beth-aven. 6 The men of Israel saw what a tight spot they were in; and because they were hard pressed by the enemy, they tried to hide in caves, thickets, rocks, holes, and cisterns. 7 Some of them crossed the Jordan River and escaped into the land of Gad and Gilead.

Meanwhile, Saul stayed at Gilgal, and his men were trembling with fear. 8 Saul waited there seven days for Samuel, as Samuel had instructed him earlier, but Samuel still didn’t come. Saul realized that his troops were rapidly slipping away. 9 So he demanded, “Bring me the burnt offering and the peace offerings!” And Saul sacrificed the burnt offering himself.

10 Just as Saul was finishing with the burnt offering, Samuel arrived. Saul went out to meet and welcome him, 11 but Samuel said, “What is this you have done?”

Saul replied, “I saw my men scattering from me, and you didn’t arrive when you said you would, and the Philistines are at Micmash ready for battle. 12 So I said, ‘The Philistines are ready to march against us at Gilgal, and I haven’t even asked for the Lord’s help!’ So I felt compelled to offer the burnt offering myself before you came.”

13 “How foolish!” Samuel exclaimed. “You have not kept the command the Lord your God gave you. Had you kept it, the Lord would have established your kingdom over Israel forever. 14 But now your kingdom must end, for the Lord has sought out a man after his own heart. The Lord has already appointed him to be the leader of his people, because you have not kept the Lord’s command.”

In this passage, we see that, rather than waiting for a priest, Saul offered a sacrifice himself. This act by a non-priest was against God’s law (Deuteronomy 12:5-14) and against the specific instructions of Samuel (see 1 Samuel 10:8). Under pressure from the approaching Philistines, he took matters into his own hands and disobeyed God. He was doing a good thing (offering a sacrifice to God before a crucial battle), but he did it in the wrong way. Like Saul, our true spiritual character is revealed under pressure. The methods we use to accomplish our goals are as important as the attainment of those goals.

A lot of times, we want to do God’s job for Him. We want to get out ahead of God. Things aren’t happening as quickly as we want them to happen. Sometimes, it is in the waiting that we learn to be dependent on God. Man, what a relief it is when we let go and let God. Learning to trust the Lord completely with our lives is one of the toughest things we have to learn as we mature in Christ. That’s the difference between me last January and me this January – I am just at the point that I am trusting God with whatever comes our way in the ministry field. I have no more preconceived notions as to what God will do with our calling. Maybe that’s the point. Complete dependence. Completely open ears. When we quit trying to control everything, the white noise stops and we can hear God’s voice. That’s the approach I am going to take next weekend – quietness and calmness, listening for God to make it clear to us if this IS the place. If it is, He will make it clear. He will make a way.

Amen and Amen.

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1 Samuel 13:1-14 (Part 1 of 3)
War with Philistia, Saul’s Disobedience, and Samuel’s Rebuke

There is one thing that I have learned in leadership over the years. That is that you give credit to others when we have victories and you accept all the blame when there are defeats. When there are defeats, you should protect your people from ridicule and take all of that for yourself. The fun is in the winning, as Coach Dabo Swinney once said. However, the learning comes in defeat. When we lose a battle of any kind there are things we must learn as leaders. We are the ones that must examine what went wrong and how to fix it. We must examine our limitations in our talents and our resources and devise ways to compensate for that in the future. As leaders, we cannot dismiss defeat as a bad day. Defeat exposes flaws in our plans, our resources, and our talents. We must learn from the defeats. We learn more in defeat than we ever do in victory. It starts at the top with leadership. We must admit that we did not set the target well. We must admit our overarching plan was flawed. We must admit that we did not see that coming – the defeat that exposed our weaknesses. When we are filled with pride though, it is hard for us to say that we blew it. It must start with the top guy in the leadership chain. He must admit that he did not set the direction appropriate to his direct reports. That then gives his direct reports the freedom to say that they did not do their job well either in developing the details of the top guy’s grand vision. It starts at the top by admitting we as top leaders blew it when we have defeats. This point is the hardest one to learn as a leader. We often try to minimize our errors rather than learn from them. We create spin to cover our blunders instead of admitting them and learning from them.

At the same time, when we have victories as leaders, we must be humble enough to realize that we did not do it alone. We must realize that we may have set the vision as leaders but there are those beneath us that actually executed our vision. Just as with football teams, the coaches can prepare the players with great game plans offensively and defensively, but when the whistle blows to begin the game, the players actually have to go out and make plays, go out and execute the plan that they have been working on all week prior to the game. If players don’t make plays, you can have the most brilliant tacticians as coaches but it will not matter. Just as Churchill and FDR were the principal leaders in the war against Hitler in World War II, but were it not for the brilliance of the American and British military and their soldiers executing brilliant plans, the war would have been lost. When we have victories, we must spread the wealth. We must realize that no matter how good our plans were, we had to have people working for us that make our plans happen. In victory, we share the accolades with those who got us there.

True leadership is tested in defeat. Many will want to scatter from the spotlight when we have blown it. Many will hide from the spotlight or even admitting that mistakes were made. I have found in my professional career, particularly since my salvation in December 2001, that admitting your mistakes and just saying, man, I screwed up, I blew it takes a weight off your shoulders. Being able to admit that you made a mistake shows that we have value outside of the jobs that we do and that our value comes from Jesus Christ not our jobs or earthly endeavors. True leadership is humble in victory when we realize that there are people supporting us that had to make the right decisions at the right times for us to have our victory. We stand among many in victory. We must stand alone in defeat.

That is the thing that I thought of this morning as I read through this passage, 1 Samuel 13:1-14, this morning for the first of three readings of it – that idea that we must spread the accolades when we have victory and stand alone when we have defeat. That idea of a mature leader filled with humility is the opposite of what we see in Saul in this earliest part of his reign as king. Pride is already a problem as we see him take credit for a victory though he had nothing to do with it. Let’s read the passage now:

 

Chapter 13
1 Saul was thirty years old when he became king, and he reigned for forty-two years. 2 Saul selected 3,000 special troops from the army of Israel and sent the rest of the men home. He took 2,000 of the chosen men with him to Micmash and the hill country of Bethel. The other 1,000 went with Saul’s son Jonathan to Gibeah in the land of Benjamin.

3 Soon after this, Jonathan attacked and defeated the garrison of Philistines at Geba. The news spread quickly among the Philistines. So Saul blew the ram’s horn throughout the land, saying, “Hebrews, hear this! Rise up in revolt!” 4 All Israel heard the news that Saul had destroyed the Philistine garrison at Geba and that the Philistines now hated the Israelites more than ever. So the entire Israelite army was summoned to join Saul at Gilgal.

5 The Philistines mustered a mighty army of 3,000[c] chariots, 6,000 charioteers, and as many warriors as the grains of sand on the seashore! They camped at Micmash east of Beth-aven. 6 The men of Israel saw what a tight spot they were in; and because they were hard pressed by the enemy, they tried to hide in caves, thickets, rocks, holes, and cisterns. 7 Some of them crossed the Jordan River and escaped into the land of Gad and Gilead.

Meanwhile, Saul stayed at Gilgal, and his men were trembling with fear. 8 Saul waited there seven days for Samuel, as Samuel had instructed him earlier, but Samuel still didn’t come. Saul realized that his troops were rapidly slipping away. 9 So he demanded, “Bring me the burnt offering and the peace offerings!” And Saul sacrificed the burnt offering himself.

10 Just as Saul was finishing with the burnt offering, Samuel arrived. Saul went out to meet and welcome him, 11 but Samuel said, “What is this you have done?”

Saul replied, “I saw my men scattering from me, and you didn’t arrive when you said you would, and the Philistines are at Micmash ready for battle. 12 So I said, ‘The Philistines are ready to march against us at Gilgal, and I haven’t even asked for the Lord’s help!’ So I felt compelled to offer the burnt offering myself before you came.”

13 “How foolish!” Samuel exclaimed. “You have not kept the command the Lord your God gave you. Had you kept it, the Lord would have established your kingdom over Israel forever. 14 But now your kingdom must end, for the Lord has sought out a man after his own heart. The Lord has already appointed him to be the leader of his people, because you have not kept the Lord’s command.”

In this passage, we see that Jonathon attacked and destroyed the Philistine outpost, but Saul took all the credit for it. Although this was normal in that culture, it didn’t make the action right. Saul’s growing pride started out small – taking credit for a battle that was won by his son. Left unchecked, his pride grew into an ugly obsession. It destroyed him, tore his family apart, and threatened the well-being of the nation of Israel. Taking credit for accomplishment of others indicates that pride is controlling your life. When you notice pride taking a foothold, take steps to put it in check by giving credit to those who deserve it.

May we be leaders filled with humility. May we be leaders who realize that their personal worth is not tied up in our jobs, our offices, our endeavors, earthly things. May we be leaders who find their value in their relationship with Jesus Christ that gives us confidence and peace to do the right thing without fear. May we be leaders who remain humble and do what is best for our organizations. May we be leaders who are quick to admit our mistakes and to learn from them. May we be leaders who share the victories and take ownership of the defeats. May we forever be subject to your leadership, Jesus!

Amen and Amen.

1 Samuel 12:1-25
Samuel’s Farewell Address

Since about 2009, all the music that I listen to on the radio is Christian contemporary. Rarely, if ever, do I listen to mainstream popular music today. I know I sound like an old fart when I say this but today’s secular music is a far cry from the great rock ‘n’ roll music that we had back in the 80’s and early 90’s. Back then, we had songs about sex but they were highly veiled references to sex that you had to figure out. But most music then told stories of tragedy, triumph, injustice and victory and just everyday life. The music from those days is just hands down better than anything in the marketplace today. Name a popular song from 5 years ago that you still remember today? Now, think of music from the 80’s and early 90’s and you could come up with at least a dozen great songs that are still receiving air play today on alternative stations or are still downloaded at Apple iTunes.

Fast forward to today’s popular music, it’s for the most part blatantly and opening about sexual conquests and songs seem now to be more about the bass beats and dancing than it about the words of a song. A definition of a great song is whether it still gets air play on the radio twenty years from now and you remember exactly what was going on in your life when that song comes on the radio twenty years from now. Today’s music is just so lacking in greatness that there are few songs that I will crossover on the radio to hear. There are few songs in popular culture now that I feel disappointed for not having heard before. Maybe, I have just become old. But I think that there are many who will agree with me, even as young people. Music often reflects the values of the culture. Our culture has degenerated into how many people you can have sex with. Our culture has degenerated into meaningless sexual relationships. Our culture has degenerated into sex being a recreation sport. And our music reflects and reinforces the culture’s values. It’s not that I am old in my ways. I love good music when I hear it even if it comes from today’s world. I wish that I COULD like the popular music of today. I really do. I mean I am a kid at heart (my wife says I am a 15 year old boy in a 55 year old body) so I enjoy new, fresh things and love new ideas and considering things from different and new ways. But today’s music horrifies me for the most part for the values that it is instilling particularly in young girls. I fear for what popular music will be like when my granddaughter, Ralyn, becomes aware of popular music and what it will teach her.

Having said all that there are occasionally songs that come out of today’s world that I just love. Right now, one of my favorite songs is Thunder by Imagine Dragons. I just love that song. It has been out there for a couple of months now but I still stop what I am doing to listen to it. The lyrics go something like this:

Just a young gun with a quick fuse
I was uptight, wanna let loose
I was dreaming of bigger things
And wanna leave my own life behind
Not a yes sir, not a follower
Fit the box, fit the mold
Have a seat in the foyer, take a number
I was lightning before the thunder

Thunder, thunder
Thunder, thun’, thunder
Thun-thun-thunder, thunder, thunder
Thunder, thun’, thunder
Thun-thun-thunder, thunder

Thunder, feel the thunder
Lightning and the thunder
Thunder, feel the thunder
Lightning and the thunder
Thunder, thunder
Thunder

Kids were laughing in my classes
While I was scheming for the masses
Who do you think you are?
Dreaming ’bout being a big star
You say you’re basic, you say you’re easy
You’re always riding in the back seat
Now I’m smiling from the stage while
You were clapping in the nose bleeds

Thunder
Thunder, thun’, thunder
Thun-thun-thunder, thunder, thunder
Thunder, thun’, thunder
Thun-thun-thunder, thunder

Thunder, feel the thunder
Lightning and the thunder
Thunder, feel the thunder
Lightning and the thunder
Thunder

Thunder, feel the thunder
Lightning and the thunder, thunder

Thunder, feel the thunder
Lightning and the thunder, thunder
Thunder, feel the thunder
Lightning and the thunder, thunder
Thunder, feel the thunder
Lightning and the thunder, thunder
Thunder, feel the thunder
Lightning and the thunder, thunder

Thunder, thunder, thunder
Thun-thun-thunder, thunder
Thunder, thunder, thunder
Thun-thun-thunder, thunder
Thunder, thunder, thunder
Thun-thun-thunder, thunder
Thunder, thunder, thunder
Thun-thun-thunder, thunder

Here’s the link to the video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fKopy74weus

I just love this song. It is fresh. It is different. It is not about banging women. It is about striving to be more than who you are right now. It is about dreaming of bigger things. It is also, to me, about the miracles that happen that make someone great and others not. It is often by the grace of God that we become great. Lightening and thunder remind us that God is in control and not us. Maybe, I misread the real meaning of the lyrics and the authors of the song may tell different, but to me, this song reminds us that we are not in control. God is. He is the lightning and the thunder under which all things operate. We should be grateful to him when fame and fortune come our way as all things are subject to the lightning and the thunder of God.

That’s the thing I thought of this morning when I read this passage, 1 Samuel 12 – how even kings are subject to God. As evidence of this fact, Samuel calls down the lightning and the thunder and the rain to prove that Saul and any and all kings are subject to God. The rain in the dry season proves it. Let’s read the passage now.

Chapter 12
1 Then Samuel addressed all Israel: “I have done as you asked and given you a king. 2 Your king is now your leader. I stand here before you—an old, gray-haired man—and my sons serve you. I have served as your leader from the time I was a boy to this very day. 3 Now testify against me in the presence of the Lord and before his anointed one. Whose ox or donkey have I stolen? Have I ever cheated any of you? Have I ever oppressed you? Have I ever taken a bribe and perverted justice? Tell me and I will make right whatever I have done wrong.”

4 “No,” they replied, “you have never cheated or oppressed us, and you have never taken even a single bribe.”

5 “The Lord and his anointed one are my witnesses today,” Samuel declared, “that my hands are clean.”

“Yes, he is a witness,” they replied.

6 “It was the Lord who appointed Moses and Aaron,” Samuel continued. “He brought your ancestors out of the land of Egypt. 7 Now stand here quietly before the Lord as I remind you of all the great things the Lord has done for you and your ancestors.

8 “When the Israelites were[a] in Egypt and cried out to the Lord, he sent Moses and Aaron to rescue them from Egypt and to bring them into this land. 9 But the people soon forgot about the Lord their God, so he handed them over to Sisera, the commander of Hazor’s army, and also to the Philistines and to the king of Moab, who fought against them.

10 “Then they cried to the Lord again and confessed, ‘We have sinned by turning away from the Lord and worshiping the images of Baal and Ashtoreth. But we will worship you and you alone if you will rescue us from our enemies.’ 11 Then the Lord sent Gideon,[b] Bedan,[c] Jephthah, and Samuel[d] to save you, and you lived in safety.

12 “But when you were afraid of Nahash, the king of Ammon, you came to me and said that you wanted a king to reign over you, even though the Lord your God was already your king. 13 All right, here is the king you have chosen. You asked for him, and the Lord has granted your request.

14 “Now if you fear and worship the Lord and listen to his voice, and if you do not rebel against the Lord’s commands, then both you and your king will show that you recognize the Lord as your God. 15 But if you rebel against the Lord’s commands and refuse to listen to him, then his hand will be as heavy upon you as it was upon your ancestors.

16 “Now stand here and see the great thing the Lord is about to do. 17 You know that it does not rain at this time of the year during the wheat harvest. I will ask the Lord to send thunder and rain today. Then you will realize how wicked you have been in asking the Lord for a king!”

18 So Samuel called to the Lord, and the Lord sent thunder and rain that day. And all the people were terrified of the Lord and of Samuel. 19 “Pray to the Lord your God for us, or we will die!” they all said to Samuel. “For now we have added to our sins by asking for a king.”

20 “Don’t be afraid,” Samuel reassured them. “You have certainly done wrong, but make sure now that you worship the Lord with all your heart, and don’t turn your back on him. 21 Don’t go back to worshiping worthless idols that cannot help or rescue you—they are totally useless! 22 The Lord will not abandon his people, because that would dishonor his great name. For it has pleased the Lord to make you his very own people.

23 “As for me, I will certainly not sin against the Lord by ending my prayers for you. And I will continue to teach you what is good and right. 24 But be sure to fear the Lord and faithfully serve him. Think of all the wonderful things he has done for you. 25 But if you continue to sin, you and your king will be swept away.”

In this passage, we see that God granted Israel’s request for a king, but His commands and requirements remained the same. God was to continue to be their true King. Both Saul and the people were to continue to be subject to God’s laws and His rule. Nothing had changed. No person is ever exempt from God’s laws. No human action is outside his jurisdiction. God is the true King of every area of life. It is not us that is in control. It is He. We must recognize His kingship and pattern every area of our life according to His principles and to show daily gratitude for the grace and provision that God has shown us.

Here, God reminds and reinforces this fact by sending the lightning and the thunder. Thunder. Feel the thunder….sorry…that song is stuck in my head again…God sent the rain to remind the Israelites who is God and who is not. He reminds them that they did not earn their place as God’s chosen people. He chose them out of no merit of their own. Let us be reminded too that our salvation was not earned. It was a gift from God. We did not earn our salvation. We also are not the ones who are in charge of our lives. It is God and we should live lives of gratitude for His grace given to us and for His guidance to our lives.

Feel the thunder. The lightning and the thunder. Lightning and the thunder. Feel the thunder. God is in control. Live subject to Him. Obedience to His Word brings joy and peace. Lightning and the thunder. Feel the thunder.

Amen and Amen.

1 Samuel 11:1-15
Saul Defeats the Ammonites

Is anger ever good? I have, because of events over the course of my life, always thought getting angry to the point of arguing or fighting was wrong. It was always a negative thing for me. Always a need to apologize. Always a mess to clean up, either literally or figuratively. It always had negative consequences for me, particularly in my relationships with the woman in my life, whomever that might have been at the particular time. There were always consequences for standing up for what I thought was right, in my mind. You know the consequences in a male-female relationship! I would be cut-off from the very thing that I found my personal worth through – sexual relations. Often the result of those occasions where I got angry over some offense to my rights, over some offense to my manhood, over some offense to my kids, whatever, would be to lose the rights and privileges of a man with his woman. Without that validation of my manhood, my worth as a man, I would buckle easily. However, most times, I would sublimate my anger over offenses to keep the supply lines, or the possibility of keeping the supply lines open. Ignoring the needs of my children, sure it would make me angry, but gotta keep the supply lines open. I measured my worth by whether I had access to the bedroom pleasures that my wife gave me. I had no sense of personal value outside that.

Growing up as a Methodist preacher’s kid moving every few years, I learned the approval game early on. I measured my worth by how many people I could get to like me. When you have no roots in a community, when you are frequently the new kid in town, you become a chameleon. You change and adapt to your environment. You are like a bad politician, doing whatever it takes to get elected. In some towns, I was the friend of rich kids and acted the part. In some towns, we were in farming communities and I was a redneck country boy. Whatever was needed to fit in and be approved that was me. That continued in my first two marriages, and particularly the second. Whatever wrongs were done to me, I pushed it down because wanting to be approved and accepted and being validated by sex was the most important thing to me. In my second marriage, there was this jealousy of anything to do with my past when it came to my wife and her kids. It was so bad that I pretty much had to ignore or not overtly show the affection to my own kids that I wanted to show and they needed from me. All the jealousy and in-fighting would make me so angry. Sometimes, I just wanted to hold my girls in my arms but I would always fear the jealousy and repercussions. I almost lost any hope of a relationship with my girls during the 9 years of that marriage. Finally, when my oldest daughter was in college, my second wife thought that our obligation to my oldest child was over. However, having a kid in college is probably the most needed time of support for a child. There are so many things that are not covered by tuition grants and loans. So, trying to avoid confrontations, hid my financial support for my daughter from my second wife, her stepmom.

As with all things that are hidden, they will eventually come to light. And it did. Major confrontation. My life as I knew it was on the line. Sexual validation on one hand and the needs of my child on the other. No denying what happened. The evidence was there. But still being the approval seeker, I tried to smooth it over for a couple of weeks. But finally, you stand for something or you fall for anything. Stand by your child or buckle under the weight of the need for approval. I chose the needs of my child over the needs of my sexual validation on August 4, 2004. I don’t blame my second wife anymore for the choices I was forced to make. Spouses will take the power, fill the vacuum, that you allow them to. They have the power over you that you let them have. On that day in August 2004, I released a decade of pushing anger down and it all exploded in walking away from the oppression of a bad marriage and being forced to ignore my children. There was no physical violence that day but just a release of anger and there were words from which there was no return. No takebacks. This was it. The final confrontation – a decade in the making. The relationship had taken the form I let it take – seeking approval over doing the right things by my kids. The release of anger and of changing the course of my life was freeing. I knew what it was going to cost me but I no longer cared. The release of anger was almost a righteous feeling. Is anger right sometimes?
That’s the thing that I thought of this morning as I read through 1 Samuel 11:1-15 this morning – how Saul’s anger at what was happening to the people of Israel was a righteous anger. Sometimes, when it’s spirit-induced anger, it is right to be angry at what is wrong. Let us read this passage now:

11 About a month later,[a] King Nahash of Ammon led his army against the Israelite town of Jabesh-gilead. But all the citizens of Jabesh asked for peace. “Make a treaty with us, and we will be your servants,” they pleaded.

2 “All right,” Nahash said, “but only on one condition. I will gouge out the right eye of every one of you as a disgrace to all Israel!”

3 “Give us seven days to send messengers throughout Israel!” replied the elders of Jabesh. “If no one comes to save us, we will agree to your terms.”

4 When the messengers came to Gibeah of Saul and told the people about their plight, everyone broke into tears. 5 Saul had been plowing a field with his oxen, and when he returned to town, he asked, “What’s the matter? Why is everyone crying?” So they told him about the message from Jabesh.

6 Then the Spirit of God came powerfully upon Saul, and he became very angry. 7 He took two oxen and cut them into pieces and sent the messengers to carry them throughout Israel with this message: “This is what will happen to the oxen of anyone who refuses to follow Saul and Samuel into battle!” And the Lord made the people afraid of Saul’s anger, and all of them came out together as one. 8 When Saul mobilized them at Bezek, he found that there were 300,000 men from Israel and 30,000[b] men from Judah.

9 So Saul sent the messengers back to Jabesh-gilead to say, “We will rescue you by noontime tomorrow!” There was great joy throughout the town when that message arrived!

10 The men of Jabesh then told their enemies, “Tomorrow we will come out to you, and you can do to us whatever you wish.” 11 But before dawn the next morning, Saul arrived, having divided his army into three detachments. He launched a surprise attack against the Ammonites and slaughtered them the whole morning. The remnant of their army was so badly scattered that no two of them were left together.

12 Then the people exclaimed to Samuel, “Now where are those men who said, ‘Why should Saul rule over us?’ Bring them here, and we will kill them!”

13 But Saul replied, “No one will be executed today, for today the Lord has rescued Israel!”

14 Then Samuel said to the people, “Come, let us all go to Gilgal to renew the kingdom.” 15 So they all went to Gilgal, and in a solemn ceremony before the Lord they made Saul king. Then they offered peace offerings to the Lord, and Saul and all the Israelites were filled with joy.

In this passage, we see that anger is powerful emotion. Often it may drive people to hurt others with words or physical violence. But anger directed at sin or injustice is not wrong. Saul was angered by the Ammonites’ threat to humiliate and mistreat his people. The Holy Spirit used Saul’s anger to bring justice and freedom. When injustice or sin makes you angry, ask God how you can channel that anger in constructive ways to help bring about positive change.

I am not hear to celebrate my second divorce. God hates divorce. But God also wants to be the center of our marriages and He never was in either of my first two marriages. These were not God honoring marriages. These were unsaved people out to protect their interests. Mine was maintaining access to sex no matter the cost to me or anyone else.

As I sit here on the birthday of my third and final wife, I thank God that there was that righteous anger over my kids on August 4, 2004. Otherwise, I would never have met the woman that God intended for me in my Elena. She has been the best thing that ever happened to me and she has been so good for my relationship with my girls. It is not either or with her. It is us. Her kids/my kids, they are OUR kids. No choices to make. I am able to love my kids and my wife at the same time. What if I did not have that righteous anger on August 4, 2004 over the state of my relationship with my kids. Where would I be now? I surely would not have the peace that that I have now. With a Christian wife and us living to please God rather than each other, we have ended up having a marriage that pleases us both. On her birthday today, I thank God for having met this woman. On her birthday, I thank God for some righteous anger.

Amen and Amen.

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

If you are not part of the solution then you are part of the problem. It’s an old axiom that indicates that it is easy to complain but it much harder to come up with solutions to problems. It’s true in the business world and it is equally and especially true in the church world. It is so easy to criticize what you don’t like about a church and how it is led but it is a whole ‘nother thing to have to make those decisions yourself. Being in leadership at church is often like being the president of the United States. No matter what you do. No matter what decision you make. Someone is going to be unhappy about it. Criticism just comes with the territory.

Recently, our church had to part ways with its youth pastor. It created somewhat of a firestorm within a certain segment of our church’s population. What do you do if you are a leader in the church, part of the church leadership team, and such things happen? What do you do when a major change is made when senior leadership makes a change in an area that is outside your lane within the leadership structure of the church. Do you get behind senior leadership or do you become part of the crowd of complainers? Although in this case, I understood why the action was taken. What if I had not agreed with it? What then? Do I become part of the complainers or do I fall behind leadership or do I voice opinions privately to senior leadership but show public solidarity with my senior leadership? Tough questions. Sometimes, we think that church should be easy. It should be flowers and daisies and running through fields tossing flowers as we go. But church is like any other organization, it is filled with people. People with their own agendas. People with flaws. People with strong opinions. People coming at church with their own backgrounds and experiences and hurts and baggage and victories and defeats. As long as church has people in it, there is going to be conflict and there is going to be criticism of leadership decisions. There is always going to be criticism of leadership direction. Just as we often do with football where it is easy to criticize what could have been done differently after the fact, so it is with church.

Like Monday night, it is easy to second-guess why Clemson look so inept offensively against Alabama in the semi-final game and criticize the preparation, it ultimately came down to the Alabama players wanting the game more. It came down to the talent difference between Alabama’s defense and Clemson’s offense was greater than the talent difference between Clemson’s defense and Alabama’s offense. When Alabama had the ball the talent was about equal between their offense and our defense. When Clemson had the ball, the talent gap between this year’s Clemson offense and this year’s Alabama defense was glaringly obvious. Alabama did just enough on offense to win the game. Clemson was unable to do anything on offense. That was difference. But there are Clemson fans who will be second guessing our coaching staff all the way until the 2018 football season starts in September. Sometimes, as football fans, we refuse to believe that our team is just less talented than another. This year, although Clemson was one of the best team’s in the country (and their 12-2 final record proves it), they simply were not as good as Alabama. There will be complainers. There will be claims that our offensive coordinators are dunderheads. However, one thing is for sure, Coach Swinney will not listen to all that chatter. He will learn from the mistakes of Monday night, make the necessary changes that are needed and move on. He cannot listen to the armchair coaching staff among the Clemson faithful. The track record of this staff of making the right decisions and doing the right things to keep the program moving forward far outweigh one bad night in New Orleans.

So it is with the church, there are tough decisions that often have to be made by senior leadership. Sometimes those decisions will be unpopular. There will be criticism. Sometimes the criticism will come because people fear losing the position that they have gained with certain personnel on staff. Sometimes, people will complain because they let pride get in the way. Sometimes, we complain from selfish motives. Sometimes, we just don’t understand the bigger picture.

Parting ways with a youth pastor was an employment decision that was a necessary one for the future growth of our youth ministry. Although he was a lovable person and liked by many, sometimes we have to make tough employment decisions in church as to who is going to take a ministry to the next level. We have to make those decisions in the secular world and we have to make them in the church world. Sometimes those decisions will not be popular. We must however as leaders of the church make the decisions that honor God. We must always make decisions that are intent on giving God honor then we will make them without concern over their popularity.

That was the thing that I thought this morning as I read through 1 Samuel 10:17-27 this morning – how the criticism of Saul began even before he began to reign as king and how that idea is so present in our churches today. 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 see that some men became Saul’s constant companions, while others despised him. Criticism will always be directed toward those who lead because they are out front. At this time, Saul took no notice of those who seemed to be against him, although later he would be consumed with jealousy. As you lead, listen to constructive criticism, but don’t spend time and energy worry about those who may oppose you. Instead focus your attention on those who are ready and willing to help.

Let us be a people that if we have issue with decisions made by leadership that we go directly to leadership to discuss them rather than complaining publicly and trying to garner anti-decision support. Let us be a people who seek to figure out the best way to reconcile conflicts to the good health of the church. Let us be a people who seek solutions to problems WITH leadership rather than complain against leadership. Let us above all be a people who honors God and His Word by the way we handle criticizing leadership. May we criticize privately directly with leaders rather than standing on a table top complaining as to what is wrong. May we work with leaders to find godly solutions to problems. May we do what is consistent with Scripture. May we pray for our leaders daily to make the godly decisions needed to ensure the future of our flock. May we pray that we work toward constructive solutions rather than divisive rhetoric.

Amen and Amen.

1 Samuel 10:17-27 (Part 2 of 3)
Saul Is Acclaimed King

Sitting here this morning as I get back into the routine of my normal everyday life, after two weeks of vacation, I realize another year has begun. I am pondering this morning about the possibilities that a new year brings. A reset button mentally and emotionally is afforded by the passing of one year into the next. It got me to thinking about the what ifs of 2018 and God’s calling on my life.

At some point in the future, I will be offered a job in full-time ministry. It is a given in my mind. It will happen. And it will most likely move us away from this place that we have come to know and love in Lyman, SC and a church that we know and love in LifeSong Church. For all these past 6, almost 7, years since I have felt the call to full-time ministry, there will come a day when I have to make a decision.

Currently, yes, I have been playing the part of a full-time ministry wannabe. I have been educating myself for the task. I have gotten a second master’s degree, this time a Master of Arts in Christian Ministry (May 2014) to go along with my master’s degree in business management. I am currently a doctoral candidate for my D. Min. degree (starting my second year in the D.Min program this week). I play a significant role in the financial and administrative functioning of our church. I am considered part of the leadership team there at LifeSong Church. It is all, I think, part of God’s preparation of me for my future task. My wife is oh so active in our church’s work in the community as the director of community outreach. Although neither one of us is compensated by the church, we are significant contributors to various operations of our church. But yet, it is my secular job at Fujikura America, Inc. (FAI) that is the fuel that drives the engine of our lives. Were it not for the compensation that I receive from FAI over these past 10 years, none of the things that we do for our church and none of the things that we have accomplished financially over the past decade would have been possible. I have a great job there. Although my title is only comptroller, I am in essence the chief financial officer of my company. I am compensated well both in regular compensation but in bonuses each year as well. My benefits package is amazing for this day and age in corporate America. My wife and I have been blessed beyond measure by God’s providence in guiding me to this position a decade ago. There were great sacrifices made when I first started working there just to demonstrate to the company that I was dedicated and willing – moving across country twice among them. I have been and am considered excellent at what I do and have been rewarded financially as a result. In the meantime, God has been calling me to the ministry. And there will be a day when I have to walk away from this season of wonderful financial blessing.

The question that keeps me up at night is what will I do? By all accounts, I should just ride this gravy train for another 10 years and then ride off into the sunset of retirement. During these additional 10 years, I will have amassed even greater assets in my 401k. I will have in the next 10 years made a significant dent in my mortgage in preparation for retirement. I will have most likely been able to pay off my daughter’s undergraduate student loans. By all accounts within the next decade, I will have accomplished all the financial goals that my wife and I have wanted to have accomplished by the time we retire. But all during this time, God has been calling me to ministry. All during this time, I have said that I will answer the call. All during this time, we have been preparing financially by living a modest life, even though we have the earning capacity for much greater. All during this time, we have been able to pay off may debts. All during this time, I have been doing all the things that God has called me to do as prep work. We are ready for when the call to full-time ministry comes.

But what will I do when it comes? Will I step into it or will I hide among the baggage? It is this idea of stepping into what God has called you to do that I thought of when I read through this passage today for a second time, 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.][a]

In this passage, we see that when the Israelites assembled to choose a king, Saul already knew he was the one (1 Samuel 10:1). Instead of coming forward, he hid among the baggage. Often, we hide from important responsibilities because we are afraid of failure, afraid of what others might think, or perhaps unsure about how to proceed. We are reminded from this passage that we must prepare now to step up to our future responsibilities. We must count on God’s provision rather than our feelings of adequacy for the task or our own abilities.

It is that question that plagues me, will I have the faith that I have talked about having when the time comes to, as they say, “put up or shut up!” For all my whining over the past few years about God’s timing being too slow, will I have the trust in God to step into the opportunity when it comes. Will I step out or hide in the baggage?

Many of us have the same faith challenges when it comes to stepping out in faith into what God has called you to do? Will you and will I have the faith to trust in the Lord to provide and make a way. In Matthew 8:19-22, we see a person who considered himself a disciple tell Jesus that He was willing to follow Him wherever He may go, but first he wanted to go home and bury his father. Later in Matthew 19:16-20, we see Jesus tell a rich young man to go sell everything he had and follow him. Will I use the excuses of family matters (my first grandchild is 17 months old and just beginning to realize who Poppy is)? Will I use the excuse of financial security? Or will I follow the call of the Lord? Will I step out in faith in what God will make abundantly clear as my call to mission or will I hide behind and among the baggage? Will I use excuses that sound perfectly reasonable to the world and to my family as to why I turned down whatever comes? Or will I go against all the sensibilities of this world and follow Jesus’ call on my life simply on the faith that He will provide for me? Will I have the faith that God will make a way for me? Will I have the faith that God will actually strengthen my family relationships through choosing to follow Him? Will I have faith to simply obey and follow God? Will I have faith?

Or will I hide among the reasonable excuses when the time comes? Will I hide among the baggage? I pray that I have enough faith and enough trust in the Lord to step into His calling when the time comes.

Amen and Amen.

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.