Posts Tagged ‘ignoring God’s Word’

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

Elena and I had been through two divorces by the time we met each other. We were both weary of marriage not so much from the perspective that we blamed the ones we married previously for the mistakes of our marriages but from the perspective that we no longer trusted ourselves at judging the people we were to marry. After two failed marriages each, we did not want to jump into marriage again. We knew that we loved each other. We knew that we connected on a soulful level. We knew those things but getting married. Wow, that was the last thing we wanted to do. Not another failed marriage. That was not for us. So, we were happy with dating. Having our separate spaces as our fallback positions. She was downstairs at Paces River Apartments in Rock Hill and I was upstairs. It was convenient. Her place or mine. Downstairs or upstairs. We ignored God’s commands when it came to sex outside of marriage. Marriage was that final commitment that neither one of us was ready to take. But we wanted the fun. I was very convincing in that regard. We were committed to each other from the time we started seeing each other exclusively in October 2007 and things were great. Separate apartments but spending all of our time together either at her place or mine.

Then the unthinkable happened. I was transferred by my job to California to assist the finance team out there to get the finance department of my company’s buy-resale division out in the San Francisco Bay area cleaned up and operating correctly. It was to be a temporary assignment that began in May 2008. I was to be back in South Carolina by Thanksgiving 2008. But lo and behold, the existing controller, a person that was over their head in the job (how she got the job I still don’t understand), saw the handwriting on the wall that she was on the way out. In October 2008, she resigned to take a job elsewhere. Immediately, the company offered me the job and I accepted. The job was now a permanent one out there in California. Although my and Elena’s relationship had survived the bi-coastal nature of our love affair from May to October, it was seen as a temporary problem to be overcome. When the job became permanent, we continued to try to make it work. Then, in the Spring of 2009, the seeing each other only every three or four weeks and flying back and forth across the country to do it became too great. We broke up for like two days. The worst two days of each other’s lives. We resolved then that we had to do something. Elena decided to put in for a transfer with her company from their Charlotte, NC facility to their facility in Stockton, CA. It all got approved and by early August 2009, we found an apartment in Livermore, CA which was about halfway between her job and mine.

When moved in together in Livermore, CA that August. It was an adjustment at first. New job for her. New community for us both. Long commutes for us both but we were together. No long flights across the country. It all made sense. But the marriage thing. We just weren’t ready for that. While we were living in Livermore, we found a great new church that was meeting in a school building using the gym and some of the empty offices and classrooms there. We got heavily involved in the church. Although I had accepted Christ as my Savior back in 2001, I was still a spiritual baby up until we started going to Livermore Alive Community Church. Elena accepted Christ as her Savior in October 2009 during a small group meeting at our pastor’s house. The pastor and his wife became our best friends. Although they were 10-15 years younger than us, the pastor and his wife were our spiritual mentors. They grew us up from spiritual babies. We were so rooted in culture that growth in the Spirit was foreign to us but we ate it up under their mentorship. We grew a lot. But as spiritual mentors do, they wait til you have grown up a bit before they start challenging you on how and where your life differs from Scripture.

Our living arrangements were the area that our pastor blasted us after we had grown up some in the Lord. Up until that point, we ignored the fact that we were living together but not married. We had all the excuses in the world. Two failed marriages each. What does a piece of paper mean in a relationship? It’s just a piece of paper. We are committed to each other. We have tried the marriage thing. It didn’t work twice for either one of us. You know the excuses. I bet some of you who are reading this may be in a relationship right now where you are having sex outside of marriage and/or are living with the person to whom you are not married. You probably have your justifications. You probably think it’s cool. It’s modern and all that. We thought that too.

But yet at the same time, we wanted to grow in our walk with Jesus Christ. We just ignored the whole marriage thing. We did not see what we were doing as fornication, as lustful pleasures. We certainly did not see it as wrong. It is funny how when we are immature in Christ how we can ignore our favorite sins as being OK for us. Just as homosexuals ignore the Word of God as their type of relationship being wrong and justify it through detailing their special circumstances, so too do we as heterosexuals often ignore God’s Word about fornication and lust because we build up our own special circumstances as to why God’s Word does not apply to us in this area. This is OK for me because….(insert your justification for actively opposing God’s Word here). We were the same way. We thought we had been granted a special exemption for our fornication because we had earned it from our failed marriages. We were engaged and that was enough of a commitment for us. We were playing married without the full commitment. Our pastor called us on it. He confronted me about it as the man of my house. He iistened to my excuses and to each one, he said “what does God’s Word say?” He went on to tell me that I could not be in any leadership position at our church until I dealt with this open rebellion to God’s Word in my life. It was tough love from a man I highly respected and was my best friend at that point in my life.

What’s your excuse for actively participating in sin? Do you rationalize away the Bible? Do rationalize away that the Bible is antiquated and we can pick and choose what we want to believe in it? Ignoring sin so that you can participate in the sin of your choice does not make it any less sin. God’s Word is timeless and eternal just as the One who inspired it. What was truth in eternity is still truth now.

That’s the thing that I got this morning on this third reading of this passage – how we justify our pet sins that we do not want to give up . 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 Saul had plenty of excuses for his disobedience. But Samuel zeroed in on the real issue, “You have not kept the command the Lord your God gave you.” Like Saul, we often gloss over our mistakes and sins, trying to justify our actions because of special circumstances or extended logical reasoning that favors us. But our excuses are nothing more than disobedience. God knows our true motives. He forgives, restores, and blesses only when we are honest about our sins. By trying to hide his sins behind excuses, Saul lost God’s blessing over his kingship, pretty much before he got started reigning as king over Israel.

I am pleased to report that because of the tough love shown us by our pastor while we were living in California and our desire to grow in Christ, we recognized our sin as sin. We saw that living together and having sex outside wedlock was wrong. We knew that we loved each other and we know that we wanted ultimately to do things God’s way. We had tried the world’s way for so long. We decided that we wanted to be more like Christ each and every day and in each area of our lives. We no longer ignored and reveled in our sin of not being married but living together. We no longer justified because of our special circumstances. We just saw it for what it was – sin. We married right after a Sunday church service at our church on Sunday, March 21, 2010. We are now approaching our 8th wedding anniversary. It is amazing how God has blessed our marriage and how we have grown together since that confrontation about sin. Certainly, there are sins we each still commit everyday that God is still working on in us. But that recognition of our obvious and blatantly rebellious sin in our lives opened our eyes to all our sins. It opened our eyes to each stronghold sin has in our lives. We are no longer arrogant enough to think that we are good enough or that there are excuses for sin. That realization also makes us oh so grateful for the grace covering that we have in Jesus Christ and thankful for the scales being removed from our eyes by the Holy Spirit. We are aware of our sins and desire to be subject to the chiseling of the Holy Spirit concerning each one.
What are you justifying as an OK sin? What are you ignoring in God’s Word? I have been there. I get you. Open your eyes to the eternal truth of God’s Word and see that which you justify for what it is.

Amen and Amen.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Amen and Amen.

Joshua 23:1-16 (Part 1 of 2)

Joshua’s Final Words to Israel

Over the past few years since I began my quest toward making God’s calling on my life a reality, I have had to prepare my testimony (my journey to the cross and beyond) in short form, long form, you name it. Virtually every job application, every school application, in the church world, you have to lay out your spiritual journey for them. Church jobs require it. Graduate school admission applications require it. So, you gotta get to know your journey to the cross and what has happened since that time. It’s just part of the deal.

 

Since the summer of 2011 when I began the admissions process for my Master of Christian Ministry (MCM) degree, I have had to hone and develop my faith journey’s story. Then with job applications after getting my degree in May 2014 and with applications to the various doctoral programs to which I have applied since then, I have really been able to flesh out my testimony into a full-fledged autobiographical sketch of myself from first memories of my existence to where I am today. And it is from this process that I have identified some common themes of my life and what my single greatest sin weak spot is. That weakness is seeking approval from others rather than from God. I think it stems from growing up as a preacher’s kid in a Methodist preacher’s home. Moving every couple of years as I did growing developed this need for acceptance but yet always feeling like an outsider. It is something that troubles me to this day. I am a loner of sorts but one who yearns to be accepted by the crowd. That was the dominating theme of my life growing up. It would lead me to throw my socially awkward brother (he’s pretty cool now but was the classic geek growing up) under the bus to fit in with the crowd. It led me to be a certain kind of personality in one place we lived and a different one in the next place to which we moved depending on the kind of community in which we lived. I was a social chameleon – taking on the color of my surroundings so as to survive and thrive.

 

As an adult, when you no longer that society of school (including college) where we have to impress or be oppressed, you settle into your life’s work and it seems the scale of life reduces to simply the relationships you have in life – the ones in your personal life and the ones at work. No longer do you have that defined society of school where you know the boundaries of the kingdom and your place in it. In the real world, it is this massive place that is ill-defined and has no real boundaries. Real life is this amorphous blob kind of like the universe itself – a thing that goes on and on forever. To make sense of it all, you simply make your world smaller by defining through the people that you know. We make our individual universes small enough to manage. Without school, these relationships of the people that we know become extremely important. For me, I defined my world by the acceptance of and approval from whomever was the woman in my life. My life up to the cross was defined by that and the first two marriages, my need for approval and validation came from these two women. Approval came through validating myself through sex. When we were active with one another, I felt I had their approval. Thus, she who holds the keys then becomes a god. I made each wife my God and I let myself become controlled by the amount of access I had to their feminine charms. I let it become my god. Suffice it to say, and I do not blame either one of them now for why this happened, but I let go of my place as the leader of the home just to maintain approval. The greatest fear I had was being disapproved and alone and without access.

 

Many people think that salvation will change everything and everything is perfect after that. They are so wrong. Salvation is just the beginning of the journey. And for me, the longest hardest thing that the Holy Spirit had to work on me about was seeking approval from others, specifically the women in my life. In other words, my idol worship was a hard thing for me to give up even after my salvation in December 2001. We are perfected by the Holy Spirit over a course of a lifetime. They are sins we commit that we are slower to open our eyes to than others, but the Holy Spirit does eventually open our eyes to it and expose it to us and that is the time that we must deal with it and put that behavior behind us. It takes time on our particularly stubborn sins that we cling to.

 

My need for approval, particularly from the women in my life, even after two failed marriages continued on even after salvation. I rationalized away my lifestyle of encounters and pursuit of encounters as OK for me and that it was not sin – not for me. If I ignored the sin, it is not sin, right. Idol worship of women and sexual relationships outside of wedlock was OK – for me. That rule of God applies to someone else, not me. God just wants me to be happy, right? God let me have this one sin or couple of sins to myself and I will obey you otherwise, OK? Deal?

 

My own past of idol worship and turning away from God’s plan for my life is what I thought of when I read through this passage for the first time of two times this morning. Let us read through it and see how this all ties together after we read the passage:

23 After a long time had passed and the Lord had given Israel rest from all their enemies around them, Joshua, by then a very old man, 2 summoned all Israel—their elders, leaders, judges and officials—and said to them: “I am very old. 3 You yourselves have seen everything the Lord your God has done to all these nations for your sake; it was the Lord your God who fought for you. 4 Remember how I have allotted as an inheritance for your tribes all the land of the nations that remain—the nations I conquered—between the Jordan and the Mediterranean Sea in the west. 5 The Lord your God himself will push them out for your sake. He will drive them out before you, and you will take possession of their land, as the Lord your God promised you.

 

6 “Be very strong; be careful to obey all that is written in the Book of the Law of Moses, without turning aside to the right or to the left. 7 Do not associate with these nations that remain among you; do not invoke the names of their gods or swear by them. You must not serve them or bow down to them. 8 But you are to hold fast to the Lord your God, as you have until now.

 

9 “The Lord has driven out before you great and powerful nations; to this day no one has been able to withstand you. 10 One of you routs a thousand, because the Lord your God fights for you, just as he promised. 11 So be very careful to love the Lord your God.

 

12 “But if you turn away and ally yourselves with the survivors of these nations that remain among you and if you intermarry with them and associate with them, 13 then you may be sure that the Lord your God will no longer drive out these nations before you. Instead, they will become snares and traps for you, whips on your backs and thorns in your eyes, until you perish from this good land, which the Lord your God has given you.

 

14 “Now I am about to go the way of all the earth. You know with all your heart and soul that not one of all the good promises the Lord your God gave you has failed. Every promise has been fulfilled; not one has failed. 15 But just as all the good things the Lord your God has promised you have come to you, so he will bring on you all the evil things he has threatened, until the Lord your God has destroyed you from this good land he has given you. 16 If you violate the covenant of the Lord your God, which he commanded you, and go and serve other gods and bow down to them, the Lord’s anger will burn against you, and you will quickly perish from the good land he has given you.”

 

In this passage, we see that Joshua knew nation’s weak spots. Before dying, he called the people together and gave commands to them where they would most likely slip – the temptations right in their own backyard: falling into idol worship with the remaining pagans in the land, and intermarrying with pagans. Our associations and relationships can be temptations to us as well. It is wise to identify our weak spots before we break down. Then, we can develop strategies to overcome these temptations instead of being overcome by them.

 

It was not until I met Elena who DID NOT want to have a relationship with me of any kind at first that the idol worship of women and what I needed to keep access to that I began to relinquish my idol worship. It was through this relationship that I learned what real unconditional love was and what real belonging means. For the first time in my life (over the last decade since I met her), I have not had to jump through hoops (whether self-imposed or imposed by others) to maintain approval. We have been married for seven years now and this is the longest stretch of my life where I feel secure. I don’t feel like I have to jump through hoops to gain her approval. The stupid things that I did in the past to maintain a woman’s approval are now just stupid things of the past.

 

It is through the Holy Spirit and the circumstances of life that bring you to your knees and through God speaking through other people that we recognize where our sin weak spots are. Sometimes, it takes a while for us to see it clearly. It usually takes some events that come crashing down on us to see it but God opens our eyes through the Holy Spirit. One day we realize that we have been disobedient to Him and worse yet we have justified it as OK. We protect our sin weak spot until it destroys us. Only then are we willing to listen to God about the truth of our sins and how they condemn us in front of Him without repentance on our part and forgiveness through Jesus Christ.

 

What is your sin weak spot? What is that you are holding onto as an OK sin for you? What are you lying to yourself about as being OK since it is your sin? Are you justifying it? Are you blind to God’s Word about the pet sin you want to keep? God’s Word is true for all and God’s Word is true eternally not just in the past. What is the sin that you need to confess? What is the sin that is sin no matter how you slice it that you must repent from? Are you still blind that is OK for you even if it is a sin because you can handle it? Are you ignoring God’s Word on your pet sin?

 

Think about it. Examine it. Write down your life story and see the common pet sin that you fall back on all the time. Repent of it. Come to the Lord and ask forgiveness. Ask His help in making your path straight. He will bring people into your life that will help you get beyond your pet sin. The Holy Spirit will help you once you are honest about that pet sin that you are clinging to. Recognize. Repent. Retool. Rework. Rejoice!

 

Amen and Amen.