WHY? 1 Samuel 16

Poor King Saul fritters away his last chance to rule Israel.  Squanders his royal calling.  Soon the gig will be up.  The last roundup.  Another ruler is on the way.  The Lord God will be selecting one closer to His own heart.

That’s what we read about in 1 Samuel 16 as God gives the prophet Samuel a swift kick in the pants, so to speak.  Tells him to stop moping around, biting his fingernails, kicking the dust, all because the one Samuel  anoints as king bottoms out.  Time to move on.  Stop gawking in life’s rearview mirror.

Sounds like advice you may need today?

Samuel is to visit a man who lives in Bethlehem.  Jesse’s his name.  Has a bunch of promising sons.  Samuel counts seven.  All good-looking, hard-working guys.  Excellent prospects.  But which one is God’s choice for the new king?

You know what happens.  Samuel checks them out, thinking each one must be God’s pick.  But no, one-by-one, the Lord vetoes them all.  Samuel gazes at their outward appearance, but the Lord looks deeper (1 Samuel 16: 7).  At the heart.  God, the ultimate cardiologist!

Finally, Samuel runs out of candidates.  Jesse’s sons fail the test.  Every last one.  Now what?  Wait a minute!  Could there be another?  Samuel counts seven, but in fact there are eight.  There’s the youngest, David, out tending sheep like a good boy.  As he approaches Samuel, the Lord says ‘yes’.  That’s him!  David’s the one!

My question is this.  Maybe you’ve wondered.  Why the runaround?  After all, the Lord knows who His choice is.  Where he lives.  What he does.  Which one of Jesse’s eight sons.  Why have Samuel go through the motions?

Incidentally, this prophet is no spring chicken.  Life tosses bananas in his pathway more than once.  And now there’s this guessing game.  Why?

Here’s a few thoughts.  Often the Lord keeps us in the dark.  We’re not told everything or even why.  Mysteries abound.  Answers not given.

And He seems in no hurry.  That’s my complaint!  Not eager to jump ‘so high’ at my command.  Like He’s God and I’m not.  His plans are discovered as we wait on Him.  Often in hindsight.

So ‘trust and obey for there’s other way’.  Especially when the lights go out and we’re groping in the dark.  Maybe that’s you today.  Unsure and on-edge.  Shelved with uncertainty.  Regardless, He’ll be with you shoulder-to-shoulder.  He will.  Lean in heavily …on Him.  Hold His hand.  Don’t ever let go.

Sometimes it’s best not to ask ‘why’.  Just get going.  Really.  Notice who’s never left your side.  NEVER!

 

Lord, how good of you to be with us.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

 

JUST SITTIN’ AROUND Luke 5: 17-25

It bugs me, inching along a gridlocked highway, watching well-paid construction workers, leisurely leaning up against earth-moving equipment, eating donuts and drinking coffee.  Doesn’t anyone work anymore?  Think it bothers me?  Good guess!

Jesus performs amazing miracles here in Luke chapter 5.  A net-breaking haul of fish when two seconds ago nary a bite.  A man with leprosy healed, now clean as a whistle.  Another day, in a tiny house, Jesus speaks to people who’ve travelled from all over.

The Pharisees and teachers of the law make their presence felt.  Sitting on their hind quarters, watching and waiting for who-knows-what.  A slip of the tongue?  A rabbinic trap for Jesus to fall into, never to get out of again?  Someone to finally do Him in?

They plunk themselves down, just sittin’ around, biding their time, hoping that Jesus will self-implode.  ‘…Pharisees and teachers of the law, who had come from every village of Galilee and from Judea and Jerusalem, were sitting there’ (Luke 5:17).

That’s when four friends carry a paralyzed man on a primitive stretcher, knowing that if they can get him to Jesus he’ll have a chance to be healed.  But too many hoi-polloi are sitting around blocking their way.  Can’t get close.  No chance with all those housesitters crowding out the scene.

These friends will not be deterred.  They climb a side stairway to the flat roof above.  Can you imagine the dead weight of this paralytic, carried up on rickety steps that today would never pass code?  Dangerous at best.  Watch out!  Could be a few more paralytics if off the side they go!

Doesn’t stop them.  They’re not going to sit around when help is underneath this straw/grass roof.  Some branches removed, and down goes their friend.  No sittin’ around for these four.  And no record of any religious leader lifting one finger to help.

Only criticism from their pearly lips.  Whining and complaining, questioning and grousing.  All while planted on their keisters and cabooses!  They could have done better by this needy man.

Not only them.  Me.  Being more kind.  Making room for others.  Getting up and offering a helpful hand.  Digging deeper into my wallet.  Giving more.  Less griping and more encouraging from my big, fat mouth.

Just me?  Get up.   Give a hand!

 

Thank you, Lord, that we can help others.  For Jesus’ sake.  Amen.

 

 

STOP BUGGING ME! Isaiah 62

Who relishes being nagged?  Not me.  No way, Jose!  Get off my back!  Unfortunately, when it comes to hounding, I’m as guilty as the next.  Sadly, getting on someone’s case only raises resistance.  Counter-productive, at best.

What about prayer?  Should we say our peace once and leave it at that?  Sometimes.  But many requests I’ve made of the Lord are said over-and-over again.  From my heart to His.  Similar to the Apostle Paul urging believers to ‘…pray continually…’ (1 Thessalonians 5:17)?

Some of my prayers I’ve been making for years.  Obviously, not answered in the way I’d hoped.  Oh well, I keep at it, still believing that God’s answer is on the way.  Just around the bend.  Not far off.

Feeling guilty about bugging God?  Then read something encouraging from Isaiah 62: 6-7–‘I have posted watchmen on your walls, O Jerusalem; they will never be silent day or night.  You who call on the Lord, give yourselves no rest, and give him no rest till he establishes Jerusalem and makes her the praise of the earth.’  See what I mean?

Like watchmen, who never cease trumpeting warnings when dangers lurk nearby, don’t stop asking.  ‘Give Him no rest’.  Go for it.  Let it all out as often as you want.  Allow your thoughts to wander wherever they take you in prayer.

Need not be formal.  Be yourself.  After all, you’re praying to the Lord who loves to hear from His children.  Give Him no downtime.  Can’t tire Him out!

By the way, Isaiah wrote those words over 2700 years ago.  And still Jerusalem is not the ‘…praise of all the earth’.  Not yet, anyway.  It will.  He promises.  When He gives us His Word, He keeps it.  In His time.

Persist in praying.  ‘Give Him no rest’.  That’s His Word.  Not mine.

 

Thank you, Lord, for always hearing us.  Amen.

 

NO MATTER WHAT Philippians 1: 12-30

Every generation confronts uncertainties and troubles.  We today haven’t cornered the market by a long stretch.  Can’t imagine the Great Plagues in Europe.  Or as a Jew in Nazi Germany.  Or as a Christian in North Korea.  In comparison, I’m getting off easy.

Times may be getting tougher as a believer in Jesus and the Bible.  That’s what a lot of preachers say today.  Maybe.  Maybe not.  This is where a little phrase used by the Apostle Paul means so much.  Hang onto it.  Roll it over in your mind.  Bring it to the fore at a moment’s notice.

What phrase?  The one found nestled at the beginning of Philippians 1:27–‘Whatever happens…’  No matter what.  Whatever life throws at you.  ‘Whatever happens…’  In other words, be prepared, be a good Boy and Girl Scout!

Life overflows with the unknown.  No guarantees.  None whatsoever.  Except that the Lord Jesus is in charge.  Nothing gets by Him.  He checks it out first and foremost, making sure we’ll be taken care of.  Either here or there.  Wherever and whatever.

But the Apostle Paul gives more than reassurance.  He urges us to live like Jesus wants us to–‘…conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ’ (Phil. 1:27).  This is the hard part.  I relish thoughts of heaven, of forgiveness, and life unending.  Who wouldn’t?  But Paul wants more from me.  To live for Jesus now… and mean it.

I knew there’s a catch.  Give me the sweet by-and-by any day, but live a godly life this very minute?  You mean my blasted impatience should stop in its tracks?  Losing it as a hothead on the phone with customer service people who barely speak English?  I’m a busy retiree.  I have a book to read.  Sun to bask in.  Get with it, people!  ‘Conduct yourself…’  Hmm.

It’s time to slow down and be kind.  Think about what Jesus would do (dust off that old WWJD bracelet, which doesn’t mean ‘What Would John Do’!), and live for Him.  Get it?

‘Whatever happens…’  ‘…conduct yourself…’  Don’t take your eyes off of Jesus.  Maybe a bit of heaven on earth will show up in your neighborhood.  And mine!

 

Lord, I need to be kind.  For Jesus’ sake.  Amen.

 

ME? A MISSIONARY? Luke 3: 1-20

When studying at the Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, I was elected president of Missionary Union, the largest student mission organization at Bible schools in the nation.  Sounds pretty impressive!  And, in many ways, none having to do with me, it was.  There were numerous prayer groups, all focused on a particular country, region of the world or ethnic/religious identity.  Each focus group met daily for prayer and weekly to hear more about their area of concentration.  Our board met monthly, chaired by yours truly.

What’s ironic is that I never felt called to the mission field.  As a young believer, I wondered if God wanted me to do so.  Shaking like a leaf that He’d say ‘yes’, I’m scared witless that I’d have to live in a ramshackeled tent in some far-off wasteland.  Fear not, it’s to the pastorate I’m called!

When reading Luke 3, I’m amazed at what happens.  John the Baptist is preaching about the Kingdom of God and the need for repentance.  Getting right with God, first of all.  And people do…in droves and throngs.

But they wonder what’s next (v. 10).  Must be more.  Become a disciple of John the Baptist?  For some.  Off to the desert with the Essenes?  Maybe for a few.  To the mission field?  Good question.

To some in the crowd, John the Baptist spells out the need to be generous and to share.  With another, a tax-collector, John replies that he should only receive taxes of the proper amount.  No padding or taking bribes.  Be honest… for a change.  To soldiers, known for aggressive actions to a captive population, John observes that their lives must be free of coercion, graft and extortion.  And, by all means, be content with what you earn.

All should be missionaries?  Some may receive that call.  But, for everyone, then and now, you and me, do what you do with honesty, care and love for one’s neighbors.  Think about someone else’s needs.  Focus on who you are in what you do.  Put godly character into your calling.

And give.  Dig deep…for missions, near home and around the world.  Neighbors are boundless.  It’s a big world out there, all needing to know of Jesus’ love and forgiveness.  That’s a mission call for all of us!

 

Lord, may we be generous for Jesus’ sake.  Amen.