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Thursday, October 31, 2013

I Hate Halloween

I hate Halloween.

{By the way, if you love this holiday, then you probably will want to skip this post. We are not going to agree, and I'm not saying that all Christians must hate Halloween or that there aren't ways to either redeem the day and/or use it reach others for Christ. One of my best pastor buddies came to Christ on Halloween at a scary event many years ago, and I'm thankful God used it. But I'm speaking here about how I personally feel when I consider Halloween.}

One of the things I hate the most about it is the glorification of the ugly. I hate the way that people use the holiday to celebrate death, evil, yucky-ness, darkness, and the macabre. Those are things to oppose, not celebrate.

Autumn is my favorite season of the year. I love living in Pennsylvania with the beautiful Fall colors. God wields an amazing paintbrush, and it shows the best this time year. And I can't understand why people would want to decorate their beautiful lawns with skeletons, gravestones, and things much more gruesome and worse.

I also love "dress-up" and costumes. I think little pink princesses and football players are really cute. If it was called "Dress Up Parade Day," I think it would be fun (especially if so many of the costumes weren't also ugly, scary, and other kinds of evil).

I don't "get" the desire to scare, to cause mischief, to force people to give you a treat or suffer a "trick." Perhaps there are godly or lovingly playful versions of these things, but they seem sub-Christian to me.

I know that demons are active around this holiday, at least with some believers. Satan loves to oppress and depress. One of my loved ones was suicidal on October 31st several years ago (thankfully unsuccessfully), and they feel oppressed again at this time every year.

I hate Halloween, but I love "Reformation Day." I think it's wonderful that it was October 31, 1517 when Martin Luther kicked off the Gospel-Recovering and Gospel-Recapturing Reformation with his 95 Theses. The darkness cannot win.

This day, I thumb my nose at Satan and sing with Luther:

    A mighty fortress is our God,
    a bulwark never failing;
    our helper he amid the flood
    of mortal ills prevaling. 
    For still our ancient foe
    doth seek to work us woe;
    his craft and power are great,
    and armed with cruel hate,
    on earth is not his equal.

    Did we in our own strength confide,
    our striving would be losing,
    were not the right man on our side,
    the man of God's own choosing.
    Dost ask who that may be? 
    Christ Jesus, it is he;
    Lord Sabaoth, his name,
    from age to age the same,
    and he must win the battle.

    And though this world, with devils filled,
    should threaten to undo us,
    we will not fear, for God hath willed
    his truth to triumph through us. 
    The Prince of Darkness grim,
    we tremble not for him;
    his rage we can endure,
    for lo, his doom is sure;
    one little word shall fell him.

    That word above all earthly powers,
    no thanks to them, abideth;
    the Spirit and the gifts are ours,
    thru him who with us sideth. 
    Let goods and kindred go,
    this mortal life also;
    the body they may kill;
    God's truth abideth still;
    his kingdom is forever.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Commend the Commendable [Video]


Commend the Commendable from Matt Mitchell on Vimeo.

To resist spreading bad news about someone, share good, true news instead: commend the commendable.

Pastor Matt Mitchell teaching the Resisting Gossip Live Seminar, March 2013, at Miracle Mountain Ranch.

For more about this important idea, I highly recommend Practicing Affirmation by Sam Crabtree.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Resistir el Chisme!

It's official!

CLC Colombia has committed to publishing a Spanish translation of Resisting Gossip.

I don't know what the official title will eventually be, but I have it on good authority that Resisting Gossip can be translated "Resistir el Chisme."

Praise the Lord!

Woodrow Kroll on Gossip

Back to the Bible has a helpful, biblical, and free 10 lesson series titled What Keeps Me from Growing? by Woodrow Kroll.  Lesson #4 is called "Gossip," and a few weeks ago our prayer meeting group went through it together.

This lesson is a very good 5 page document with lots of helpful information.

His lesson fits corresponds with the message of Resisting Gossip.

  • Kroll defines gossip this way: "It’s spreading idle talk or rumor, especially about the personal or private affairs of other people. It’s most often useless or spiteful tales, almost always told behind the back of the person about whom you are gossiping."
  • He also distinguishes between disseminating information and gossip by focusing on the type of information shared (what I call "bad news") and the intent (what I call "out of a bad heart").
Kroll hands out some good "red flags" to watch for:
1. Be concerned when you hear “secret information” being circulated or if you hear
anyone else’s name is used in a conversation connected with that information.
2. Gossip often masquerades as “concern” for others. 
3. Sometimes a gossiper will seek you out as their “confidante,” someone to
unload on about their “heavy heart” for another person. 
4. A gossip thrives on the negative, the secretive and the sensational.
5. In church, gossip is often passed along as a prayer request.
He ends with a "baker's dozen" of verses that relate to the problem of gossip.

There are things I would nuance or say differently, but I can recommend this resources as a very helpful one for followers of Christ.

Read the whole thing.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

[Matt's Messages] "From Here On"

“From Here On”
A Heart for the Heart of God: The Message of 1 Samuel
October 27, 2013 :: 1 Samuel 12:1-25

In our message from 2 weeks ago in chapter 8, the people of Israel demanded a king such as all of the other nations around them had.

And in last week’s message, chapters 9, 10, and 11, God gave the people of Israel the king that they had asked for. He did it out of mercy for them because they did need saving. And the brand new king, King Saul, did deliver them from the clutches of the Ammonite king Nahash.

But we saw that God also gave them this king out of discipline. He gave them what they deserved, and King Saul will prove to be a disappointment.

At the end of chapter 11, Samuel rounded up all of the nation at Gilgal, and there they affirmed and reconfirmed Saul’s kingship.

And it appears that at that same event, Samuel got up and gave his last big national speech, which is our chapter 12.

It’s not really a farewell speech, since Samuel is not quite dead and not quite done.

But it is a major transitional speech, where old prophet Samuel looks back over the last several hundred years and gives both a history of Israel’s failures and a prophetic call to serve the Lord in the new era of the monarchy.

God has given Israel a king, and that’s because they’ve been bad.

But they don’t have to stay that way.

From here on, things can change.

From here on, things must change.
From here on, God is asking them to change.

I’ve entitled today’s message, “From Here On.”

And I hope that it helps all of us to put down a stake today and make a fresh decision to follow the Lord anew. From here on.

“Samuel said to all Israel, ‘I have listened to everything you said to me and have set a king over you. Now you have a king as your leader. As for me, I am old and gray, and my sons are here with you. I have been your leader from my youth until this day. Here I stand. Testify against me in the presence of the LORD and his anointed. Whose ox have I taken? Whose donkey have I taken? Whom have I cheated? Whom have I oppressed? From whose hand have I accepted a bribe to make me shut my eyes? If I have done any of these, I will make it right.’ ‘You have not cheated or oppressed us,’ they replied. ‘You have not taken anything from anyone's hand.’ Samuel said to them, ‘The LORD is witness against you, and also his anointed is witness this day, that you have not found anything in my hand.’ ‘He is witness,’ they said.” Stop there for now.

So, Samuel is talking about the transition from having a national prophet who has been basically acting as a judge and leading the nation to having a bona fide king installed as their leader.

“I have listened to everything you said to me and have set a king over you. Now you have a king as your leader.”

And Samuel is going to have some hard things to say about that.

This is not your typical inauguration speech where the new public official gets honored and glorified by the kingmaker.

Samuel is going to say some of the hardest things for the people to hear and to accept.

So, he begins by putting himself on trial. V.3

“Here I stand. Testify against me in the presence of the LORD and his anointed. Whose ox have I taken? Whose donkey have I taken? Whom have I cheated? Whom have I oppressed? From whose hand have I accepted a bribe to make me shut my eyes? If I have done any of these, I will make it right.’”

I think Samuel is talking this way to establish his basic integrity and to show that he is qualified to say the hard things that they need to hear and are about to hear. V.4

“‘You have not cheated or oppressed us,’ they replied. ‘You have not taken anything from anyone's hand.’ Samuel said to them, ‘The LORD is witness against you, and also his anointed (Saul) is witness this day, that you have not found anything in my hand.’ ‘He is witness,’ they said.”

Can I just say in passing that this is a good practice to engage in from time to time?
To take an inventory of your life and see how much integrity is there.

Is there anyone I have cheated?
Is there anyone I have oppressed?
Is there anyone I owe anything to to make it right?

And even to ask others.
Is there anything I have done to hurt you?
Is there anything I need to apologize for?
Is there anything I need to make right?

It’s a great thing to short accounts.

But of course, the point here is that Samuel has led them with integrity.

He didn’t do anything that warranted their abandoning him and demanding a king.

And he is spiritually qualified to deliver the indictment that is coming. V.6

“Then Samuel said to the people, ‘It is the LORD who appointed Moses and Aaron and brought your forefathers up out of Egypt. Now then, stand here, because I am going to confront you with evidence before the LORD as to all the righteous acts performed by the LORD for you and your fathers.”

Samuel says, “Listen up. I’m going to give you a little history lesson. You’re going to go on trial right now and be found guilty by the evidence.”  V.8

“‘After Jacob entered Egypt [the last part of Genesis], they cried to the LORD for help, and the LORD sent Moses and Aaron, who brought your forefathers out of Egypt and settled them in this place [the books of Exodus, Numbers, Deuteronomy and Joshua]. ‘But they forgot the LORD their God; so he sold them into the hand of Sisera, the commander of the army of Hazor, and into the hands of the Philistines and the king of Moab, who fought against them.

They cried out to the LORD and said, 'We have sinned; we have forsaken the LORD and served the Baals and the Ashtoreths. But now deliver us from the hands of our enemies, and we will serve you.' Then the LORD sent Jerub-Baal [that is Gideon], Barak, Jephthah and Samuel, and he delivered you from the hands of your enemies on every side, so that you lived securely.”

That’s the book of Judges in a nutshell and the first part of this book, 1 Samuel.

God has consistently rescued His people from their enemies, whether they be Pharoah or Sisera or the Philistines or Moab or whomever. But. V.12

“‘But when you saw that Nahash king of the Ammonites was moving against you, you said to me, 'No, we want a king to rule over us'–even though the LORD your God was your king. Now here is the king you have chosen, the one you asked for; see, the LORD has set a king over you.”

You have rejected the LORD and asked for a human king. A king is now what you have.

Now, wait a second before reading verse 14.

What do you think that Samuel should say next?

You might think that Samuel will tell them that the LORD is done with them.

Right?

I have been good to you.
God has been good to you.
You have forsake Him.
You have asked for a king instead of Him.
Now you have your king, so I’m out of here....and so is God!

That’s what they deserve.

But that’s not what Samuel says. V.14

“If you fear the LORD and serve and obey him and do not rebel against his commands, and if both you and the king who reigns over you follow the LORD your God–good! But if you do not obey the LORD, and if you rebel against his commands, his hand will be against you, as it was against your fathers.”

It’s another chance.

God is giving them a new chance. A new start.

“If you fear the LORD and serve and obey him and do not rebel against his commands, and if both you and the king who reigns over you follow the LORD your God–good!”

Notice that it takes both of them, both the people and the king for this to work.

They have this king now, for better or for worse.

And they are both being called to serve and obey the LORD.

This king is not a new god. He is to serve and lead his people to serve the one true God.

And if they don’t, there will be consequences.

“But if you do not obey the LORD, and if you rebel against his commands, his hand will be against you, as it was against your fathers.”

New start, same rules as before.

With obedience comes blessing. With disobedience comes danger.  V.16

“‘Now then, stand still and see this great thing the LORD is about to do before your eyes! Is it not wheat harvest now? I will call upon the LORD to send thunder and rain. And you will realize what an evil thing you did in the eyes of the LORD when you asked for a king.’ Then Samuel called upon the LORD, and that same day the LORD sent thunder and rain. So all the people stood in awe of the LORD and of Samuel.”

Kaboom!  This was an impressive miracle.

The wheat harvest was the driest time of the year. It hardly ever ever rained then much less thundered and poured.

It’s like saying that there will be two feet of snow here on the 4th of July. And then it happening overnight.

And the people of Israel finally seem to get it.

They finally understand with this sign where they had gone wrong. V.19

“The people all said to Samuel, ‘Pray to the LORD your God for your servants so that we will not die, for we have added to all our other sins the evil of asking for a king.’”

Help! We get it. We get it!  We are in big trouble. We have done something very wrong by rejecting the kingship of Yahweh and asking for a replacement that we could see and touch and trust in.

This is a significant point in the story. Since the beginning of chapter 8, the people have not understood what they were asking for.

We said, “Be careful what you ask for because you just might get it.”

And Samuel told them what they were doing, but they wouldn’t listen.

Now, they finally get it, and they are scared stiff.

“Pray to the LORD your God for your servants so that we will not die, for we have added to all our other sins the evil of asking for a king.”

They finally get it. And they are repentant.

And the Lord is merciful. V.20

“‘Do not be afraid,’ Samuel replied. ‘You have done all this evil; yet do not turn away from the LORD, but serve the LORD with all your heart.”

... I love that.

Notice how Samuel tells it like it is but also offers hope.

“‘Do not be afraid,’ ... ‘You have done all this evil; yet do not turn away from the LORD, but serve the LORD with all your heart.”

Yeah, you have messed up.
You have broken your promises.
You have done wrong.
You have done all this evil.

But it’s not the end.

“Do not be afraid.”

Start over again.

Do you need to hear that this morning?

I’m pretty sure that a lot of us need to hear that this morning.

We have blown it this week.
We have failed.
We have fallen.
We have not lived up to our potential.
We have regrets that we dread coming to terms with.

We have done all this evil.

But “do not be afraid.”

That’s what God is saying to you today.

“Do not be afraid.”

This is not the end, and God is not done with you.

Do not turn away from the LORD, but serve the LORD with all your heart.

That’s point #1 of four.

From here on:

#1. SERVE THE LORD WITH ALL YOUR HEART.

Don’t stop now in defeat.

Decide now to serve the Lord with all of your heart.

Our sermon series is called “A heart for the heart of God.”

That’s what Samuel is telling repentant Israel.

Don’t be afraid but get a heart for the heart of God.

Serve the Lord with all your heart.

God is a God of second chances. And third chances and fourth.

Don’t turn away from him now. I know you’ve done all this evil. But I also know that God is gracious and wants your heart.

All of your heart.

Make a new start today. And from here on serve the LORD with all your heart.

#2. TURN AWAY FROM USELESS IDOLS.

From here on, turn away from useless idols. V.21

“Do not turn away after useless idols. They can do you no good, nor can they rescue you, because they are useless.”

Samuel is saying, “Don’t throw away this new chance by turning to idols.”

They are King James “vain” or ESV “empty.” They are useless.

Idols are as useless as a screendoor on a submarine. (ala Rich Mullins)

Or an ejection seat on a helicopter.

Samuel says, don’t turn to useless idols.

And we need to hear today.

Not because we believe in Baal or the Ashtoreths of verse 10.

But because we believe in our modern day idols–substitute gods that promise so much but deliver so little.

They are useless...

... but they don’t seem like it!

The power of an idol is that it seems to be powerful.

Here’s this thing that if you treat it right it will give you things back.

We said that King Saul was like an idol to these people. He was impressive looking and tall!

He was something you could see and touch and follow into battle.

The LORD on the other hand is invisible.

What idols are you tempted to trust in and turn to?

They will disappoint you every time.

“Do not turn away after useless idols. They can do you no good, nor can they rescue you, because they are useless.”

From here on, turn away from useless idols.

#3. BE ASSURED OF YOUR WELCOME.  V.22

“For the sake of his great name the LORD will not reject his people, because the LORD was pleased to make you his own.”

This is precious.

If you have strayed from the straight and narrow and are hearing this call to come home, you might be worried about your reception.

You know that you need, from here on, to return to the Lord and to serve Him with all your heart.

But you’re not sure that you’re really wanted. That you’re really invited.

Oh, God doesn’t want me. I’ve been too bad. I’ve messed up too many times in too many ways.

I’m too far gone.

God can’t forgive me!

No. Come home. The LORD will not reject His people.

Why? For the sake of his great name!

Because God gets the glory when He gives out His grace.

Israel wasn’t picked because they were so good or great or godly.

Israel was picked because God wanted to show off how gracious He is.

V.22 “The LORD was pleased to make you his own.”

How much more is that true of us today?

How much more is that true of Christians who have been saved by the Cross of Christ.

“The LORD was pleased to make you his own.”

Do you hear those words applied to you this morning.  “His own.”

“The LORD was pleased to make you his own.”

“For the sake of his great name.”

Be assured of your welcome.

You who are weary, come home.

From here on, be assured that you are wanted, forgiven, accepted, and welcome.

You who are weary, come home.

Samuel reassures the people that they are not just welcome but prayed for. V.23

“As for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the LORD by failing to pray for you. And I will teach you the way that is good and right.”

Samuel is promising from here on to continue to be a good prophet. To pray for them and teach them what God says.

Even Samuel is not giving up on them!

Samuel here is, of course, a great model for us of promising to pray for those we are connected to. It is a sin to fail to pray. A sin of omission. And faithful friends pray for their loved ones.

But I was struck in reading verse 23 this week, not that Samuel was an example for us but that Samuel was a foreshadowing of Jesus.

Jesus is before the throne of God above interceding for us right now.

We are not just welcome, but we are prayed for, by the Son of God!

You might feel defeated this week and are tempted to despair.

When Satan Tempts Me to Despair
And Tells Me of the Guilt Within (True Guilt! “You have done all this evil.”)
Upward I Look and See Him There Who Made and End to All My Sin

Because the Sinless Savior Died, My Sinful Soul Is Counted Free
And God the Just is Satisfied to Look in Him (My intercessor) and Pardon Me!

“Do not be afraid...the LORD will not reject His people.”

#4. DON’T FORGET ALL HE HAS DONE FOR YOU.  V.24

“But be sure to fear the LORD and serve him faithfully with all your heart; consider what great things he has done for you. Yet if you persist in doing evil, both you and your king will be swept away.”

From here on, don’t forget all the LORD has done for you.

Raise that Ebenezer we talked about a few weeks ago. That pile of stones to remind yourself of what God has done on your behalf.

Count your many blessings, see what God has done.

This is a powerful way of staying on track in the Christian life.

Remember.
Remember.
Remember.

Try to regularly rehearse the stories of God’s grace in your life.

Tell them to others!

And tell them to yourself.

Starting this week, I want many of you to consider sharing a story of God’s grace to you at Christmas time.

The holidays aren’t that far away, and I’d like to enlist at last 5 of you to tell us all a  story of how God intersected your life at some point around Christmastime.

I want to call it something like “Stories of Christ at Christmas.”

It could be something small like, “God reminded me what Christmas was all about” in a short story.

Or it could be a big thing like, “God saved me during the holidays one year.”

Pray about that, would you?  I’d like to have several of us get up and share a story this Christmas season.

The important point is to not forget all that He has done.

He gave His life for us. To pay for our sins!
He came back from the dead to give us life.
He sent His Spirit to be with us always.
He promised to return to take us to be with Him where He is.

Let’s remember that each and every day from here on.


***

A Heart for the Heart of God

01. Hannah's Prayers
02. Those Who Honor Me I Will Honor
03. Speak, LORD, for Your Servant Is Listening
04. God In A Box
05. Who Can Stand in the Presence of the LORD, This Holy God?
06. Be Careful What You Ask For
07. "Go and Look for the Donkeys."

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Friday, October 25, 2013

Giving an Account for Every Careless Word [Video]


Giving an Account for Every Careless Word from Matt Mitchell on Vimeo.
Words matter, not just here and now, but to God. Someday we will have to give an account for every careless word.

Pastor Matt Mitchell teaching the Resisting Gossip Live Seminar, March 2013, at Miracle Mountain Ranch

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Clarion CRU and Resisting Gossip

I thoroughly enjoyed being with the guys and gals of the Clarion University CRU last evening. Good singing, fun interaction, and a great bunch of folks learning about Resisting Gossip. I hope to get back there next semester.

With the Clarion CRU

Unpacking the 3 B's of Gossip


Great listeners.


Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Love Into Light

Near the peak of my "must read" pile right now is a new book by my friend and CCEF/WTS classmate Peter Hubbard on the church's need for gospel-centered response to homosexuality.

Last week, I was able to listen to this interview Peter did at Confessing Our Hope (a podcast that I will soon be interviewed on about Resisting Gossip, stay tuned!), and I was very encouraged by what I heard.

I think that Peter is saying some of the things that the church today needs to hear on this subject--some of what I was trying to get at in the blog post series "Hope for Holy Sexuality" over the last year.  I commend the interview to you encourage people to visit the website: LoveIntoLight.com for more indepth resources.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

So, Is This Gossip?

After I speak to a group like the Kylertown Center for Active Learning or the Clearfield WOW or CLC's Conversations at the Castle, I'm almost always asked specific questions about particular kinds of conversations with the tagline: "So, is this gossip?"

  • "We talk about those who aren't here at our group and why they might have had to miss. Maybe they are sick. Is that like King David in Psalm 41? Is that gossip?"
  • "I tell my friends what I heard on the police scanner. Is that gossip?"
  • "I'm going out for dinner with my classmates from long ago, and I know we're going to get to asking what happened to all of our old friends and sharing people's histories. Is that gossip?"
I love that question!

I used to hate that question because I didn't have much clarity about gossip, but now I see it as a mark of growing maturity that it's even being asked.

The first thing I do is to say, "Maybe. It depends." My first inclination is to to reassure folks that they have not fallen into a trap, but I don't know if they have or haven't. Perhaps they have listened to my talk and the Spirit is tapping them on the shoulder with His loving conviction.

The second thing I say is, "Let's go back to our definition. The sin of gossip is bearing bad news behind someone's back out of a bad heart. Do you think you are doing that?" And we go over their specific question applying this definition.

Often, they are sharing some bad news, but it's not in a secretive, clandestine way. There is no "hiding" this sharing from the person being talked about. They wouldn't mind the subject knowing that they were talking about them. And often, there is a loving motive behind their talk.

So most of the time, the third thing I say is, "Sounds to me like you are fine. It doesn't sound like that is gossip."

But then, fourthly, I always try to say, "But I can see how that situation could turn into gossip." And I give them "frinstances" where the motive for sharing the bad news might get skewed or the talking might become sneakily clandestine. It's not always obvious because of all of the factors involved, including especially motive. 

I enjoy this part of the conversation. Heads begin to nod up and down and lights go on behind people's eyes. Sometimes the discussion goes deeper and sometimes it moves in a new direction. I enjoy it because it means that people are learning and are trying to actually apply what they have learned to their every day lives. That's what it's all about!

***

By the way, this approach may sound too subjective to some. I know that it sometimes feels too subjective to me, especially since I don't always know my heart much less someone else's.  And yet, I do think this is a biblical way of understanding and addressing the problem. It fits with the "messiness" and complexity of every day life without falling into the error of complete subjectivity and total relativity.

Along these lines, I was helped by this article by Justin Taylor, quoting Peter Kreeft: Can You Be a Moral Absolutist If You Think It Sometimes Depends on the Motives and Situation? Yes, you can and should.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Amazon Review of "Resisting Gossip" by Stephen J Kemp

Stephen Kemp of the Antioch School for Church Planting and Leadership Development posted a very encouraging 7 point review on Amazon last week:

1. Resisting Gossip by Matt Mitchell was well-written and edited. I have a lot of books that pass my desk. Most are not well-written or well-edited. Most sound too much like the author is talking casually. This didn't just capture what the author had to say, but did so it a solid literary manner. This makes for ease of reading and being able to hone in on the progress of your thought (without the redundancy and tangents that are part of so many books I read).

2. The stories were helpful. Few were self-serving or too self-referential. The stories weren't told just because they were meaningful to the author. They were helpful to me as a reader to think about the issues. It seemed that they were carefully chosen and presented, not just written because they were the first ones that came to the author's mind.

3. I love the study questions. So many books end up having little lasting impact because they are just content. Excellent study questions like these help (force) the reader to experience the impact that the content merits.

4. Good use of the citations of others, but not too much. Some books I read seem just like commentary on someone's files of clippings on various topics. I thought the author was effectively selective in his choice of references to others. I'm sure he could have done much more, especially with some of the counseling resources, but I think more would have been less.

5. The book provided substantial analysis, not just some clever conceptualization. For instance, the "Gallery of Gossip" was extremely helpful because of its comprehensiveness and richness of development of nuances.

6. The minimal and focused use of Scripture at the beginning of chapters was well done and effective, especially Romans 1:29 on page 44. The three words, "They are gossips," were the most powerful three words in the book. They screamed for the reader to pay attention because Paul did as he addressed the topic straight on.

Read point 7 at Amazon.

***

If you've had a chance to read it, visit the Resisting Gossip Amazon Page to leave your own review. My goal is to see fifty reviews soon.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

[Matt's Messages] "Go and Look for the Donkeys"

“Go and Look for the Donkeys”
A Heart for the Heart of God: The Message of 1 Samuel
October 20, 2013 :: 1 Samuel 9:1-11:15

There is a lot going on in these chapters, but they basically tell one story–the story of how God answered the request (I mean demands) of the people in chapter 8.

Do you remember what the people of Israel asked for last week in chapter 8?

“We want a king!”
“We want a king!”
“We want a king!”

Like all the other nations.

And we said, “Be careful what you ask for” because you just might get it.

At the end of chapter 8, the LORD tells Samuel to give the people what they are asking for, to give them a king.

And the story of chapters 9 through 11 of 1 Samuel are the story of how God gave that king to them.

It was in a way that no one could have guessed, including the prophet and the king himself.

It started with a search...for some donkeys.

The title for today’s message, “Go and Look for the Donkeys.”

Now, let me be clear. That’s not our application for today.

The Bible is not going to teach us to go and look for some donkeys.

But as we follow one young man’s search for donkeys, I think that we’ll find some truths about God that do apply to our lives today.

Because we’re going to do 3 chapters this morning, there won’t be much time for commentary.  I’m mainly just going to read the story to you and provide a little running commentary.

What I’d like to show you can be summed up in 3 short words about God: Providence, Discipline, and Deliverance.

And we’ll see all three as we go along.

Our story begins with a Hebrew man of standing named Kish. Chapter 9, verse 1.

“There was a Benjamite, a man of standing, whose name was Kish son of Abiel, the son of Zeror, the son of Becorath, the son of Aphiah of Benjamin.”

Now, we can guess that either he or his son will be the king requested by the people in chapter 8.

This man is a man of standing and pedigree. But it’s not him.  V.2

“He had a son named Saul, an impressive young man without equal among the Israelites– a head taller than any of the others.”

Aha. Need to keep our eye on this guy. He’s going to go somewhere. He’s tall!

On the outside at least, this guy looks good. V.3

“Now the donkeys belonging to Saul's father Kish were lost, and Kish said to his son Saul, ‘Take one of the servants with you and go and look for the donkeys.’ So he passed through the hill country of Ephraim and through the area around Shalisha, but they did not find them. They went on into the district of Shaalim, but the donkeys were not there. Then he passed through the territory of Benjamin, but they did not find them.”

Sounds a little frustrating, doesn’t it?

Anybody have a week like that this week?

You feel like you were looking for the donkeys, and they weren’t anywhere to be found?

Now, we don’t value donkeys, like they did. This was like having several paychecks of cash go missing.  “I know I put them somewhere.”

But you really get the feeling of futility.

Not in Shalisha. Not in Shaalim. Not in Benjamin. V.5

“When they reached the district of Zuph, Saul said to the servant who was with him, ‘Come, let's go back, or my father will stop thinking about the donkeys and start worrying about us.’”

“But the servant replied, ‘Look, in this town there is a man of God; he is highly respected, and everything he says comes true. Let's go there now. Perhaps he will tell us what way to take.’ Saul said to his servant, ‘If we go, what can we give the man? The food in our sacks is gone. We have no gift to take to the man of God. What do we have?’ The servant answered him again. ‘Look,’ he said, ‘I have a quarter of a shekel of silver. I will give it to the man of God so that he will tell us what way to take.’ (Formerly in Israel, if a man went to inquire of God, he would say, ‘Come, let us go to the seer,’ because the prophet of today used to be called a seer.)  ‘Good,’ Saul said to his servant. ‘Come, let's go.’ So they set out for the town where the man of God was.”

Do you see how the writer is stringing us along and building dramatic tension?

Saul has set out looking for donkeys.

Now he’s looking for a prophet.

Who do you think the prophet might be? V.11 More dramatic tension.

“As they were going up the hill to the town, they met some girls coming out to draw water, and they asked them, ‘Is the seer here?’ ‘He is,’ they answered. ‘He's ahead of you. Hurry now; he has just come to our town today, for the people have a sacrifice at the high place. As soon as you enter the town, you will find him before he goes up to the high place to eat. The people will not begin eating until he comes, because he must bless the sacrifice; afterward, those who are invited will eat. Go up now; you should find him about this time.’”

We’re having our town meal and meeting. And the prophet is in town and will kick things off with a prayer.

And we still don’t know his name. But we can guess.  V.14

“They went up to the town, and as they were entering it, there was Samuel, coming toward them on his way up to the high place.”

Aha. This is a meeting between Saul and Samuel.

Is it just a chance meeting?
Is it just a coincidence?
Did they just so happen to meet?

The author of the book pulls back the curtain and gives us the 3 most important verses in this chapter. Verses 15, 16, and 17.

“Now the day before Saul came, the LORD had revealed this to Samuel: ‘About this time tomorrow I will send you a man from the land of Benjamin. Anoint him leader over my people Israel; he will deliver my people from the hand of the Philistines. I have looked upon my people, for their cry has reached me.’”

Here’s our first finding. We’ve found:

#1. GOD’S PROVIDENCE.

God’s providence is His sovereign rule over all things to provide the best of care for His people.

He doesn’t just sovereignly rule. He rules for His people’s good.

That’s what we mean when we say, “God’s providence.”

How was it that Saul ran into Samuel that day?

It was not just a coincidence.

It was a plan.

V.16 says that the LORD told Samuel that He was going to “send” Saul to him that afternoon.

Q. Did Saul know that he was being sent?

A. Yes, he knew that he was being sent to look for some donkeys!

But he had no idea that the LORD was sending him to meet his destiny with Samuel.

This should encourage us.

Because so often it feels in life like we’re chasing elusive donkeys, doesn’t it?

Shakespeare’s Macbeth is famous for saying that life is just “a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”

And sometimes it feels like it.

Sometimes life feels like an endless search for missing donkeys that never show up.

But the Bible teaches us that God has a plan and is working that plan for His glory and our good!

And we might not get a “verses 15-16 moment” in our lives when God pulls back the curtain and tells us what’s going on.  Saul didn’t get that!

But we know that it’s happening.

That our Heavenly Father is working it all to our good.

Notice in verse 16 that His providence is delivering mercy and compassion to His people.  V.16 again.

“‘About this time tomorrow I will send you a man from the land of Benjamin. Anoint him leader over my people Israel; he will deliver my people from the hand of the Philistines. I have looked upon my people, for their cry has reached me.’”

Now, we’ll see in a few seconds that there is a disciplinary side to this choice for their king. Unfortunately, they are going to get what they deserve.

But God is also giving them this king because He loves them. Because He cares. Because He has compassion. He has looked upon his people, and their cries have reached Him.

And He hears your cries, too.
He has compassion on you.
He looks on you, as well.

It may not feel like it sometimes.

“How did those donkeys get out of the barn again?!

Where are they?!!”

But if you belong to Jesus, you will find someday that every elusive donkey was actually leading you into something good...because of God’s providence.

V.17 “When Samuel caught sight of Saul, the LORD said to him, ‘This is the man I spoke to you about; he will govern my people.’”

It’s all part of His plan. You can trust Him.

V.18  “Saul approached Samuel in the gateway and asked, ‘Would you please tell me where the seer's house is?’”

I think it’s interesting how Saul doesn’t seem to know Samuel at all. And yet this is Samuel! The national spiritual leader and hero!  I think Saul may not be the brightest bulb in the house. V.19

“‘I am the seer,’ Samuel replied. ‘Go up ahead of me to the high place, for today you are to eat with me, and in the morning I will let you go and will tell you all that is in your heart. As for the donkeys you lost three days ago, do not worry about them; they have been found. And to whom is all the desire of Israel turned, if not to you and all your father's family?’”

Say what?

What a shock that speech must have been to Saul!

How did you know I was coming?
How did you know about the donkeys?
What do you mean that the desire of Israel has turned to me? V.21

“Saul answered, ‘But am I not a Benjamite, from the smallest tribe of Israel, and is not my clan the least of all the clans of the tribe of Benjamin? Why do you say such a thing to me?’ Then Samuel brought Saul and his servant into the hall and seated them at the head of those who were invited–about thirty in number. [He’s honoring him.] Samuel said to the cook, ‘Bring the piece of meat I gave you, the one I told you to lay aside.’ So the cook took up the leg with what was on it and set it in front of Saul. Samuel said, ‘Here is what has been kept for you. Eat, because it was set aside for you for this occasion, from the time I said, 'I have invited guests.'’ And Saul dined with Samuel that day.”

When he set out after those donkeys, he had no idea!

V. 26 “After they came down from the high place to the town, Samuel talked with Saul on the roof of his house. They rose about daybreak and Samuel called to Saul on the roof, ‘Get ready, and I will send you on your way.’ When Saul got ready, he and Samuel went outside together. As they were going down to the edge of the town, Samuel said to Saul, ‘Tell the servant to go on ahead of us’–and the servant did so–‘but you stay here awhile, so that I may give you a message from God.’”

Chapter 10, verse 1.

“Then Samuel took a flask of oil and poured it on Saul's head and kissed him, saying, ‘Has not the LORD anointed you leader over his inheritance?”

Saul is the “Messiah.”  Saul is the anointed one.

Saul is to be the king.

We could see that coming. But it’s still a secret. And Saul needs some confirmation and assurances. So Samuel gives him 3 signs. V.2

“When you leave me today, you will meet two men near Rachel's tomb, at Zelzah on the border of Benjamin. They will say to you, 'The donkeys you set out to look for have been found. [There’s those donkeys again!] And now your father has stopped thinking about them and is worried about you. He is asking, ‘What shall I do about my son?’'

‘Then you will go on from there until you reach the great tree of Tabor. Three men going up to God at Bethel will meet you there. One will be carrying three young goats, another three loaves of bread, and another a skin of wine. They will greet you and offer you two loaves of bread, which you will accept from them.

‘After that you will go to Gibeah of God, where there is a Philistine outpost. As you approach the town, you will meet a procession of prophets coming down from the high place with lyres, tambourines, flutes and harps being played before them, and they will be prophesying.

The Spirit of the LORD will come upon you in power, and you will prophesy with them; and you will be changed into a different person.

Once these signs are fulfilled, do whatever your hand finds to do, for God is with you.

‘Go down ahead of me to Gilgal. I will surely come down to you to sacrifice burnt offerings and fellowship offerings, but you must wait seven days until I come to you and tell you what you are to do.’”

And that’s exactly what happened. V.9

“As Saul turned to leave Samuel, God changed Saul's heart, and all these signs were fulfilled that day. When they arrived at Gibeah, a procession of prophets met him; the Spirit of God came upon him in power, and he joined in their prophesying. When all those who had formerly known him saw him prophesying with the prophets, they asked each other, ‘What is this that has happened to the son of Kish? Is Saul also among the prophets?’ A man who lived there answered, ‘And who is their father?’ So it became a saying: ‘Is Saul also among the prophets?’”

I think that’s a way of saying, “Will wonders never cease?”  (Dale Ralph Davis, pg. 100)

What is going on around here?

Now, I don’t think we’re supposed to get from verse 9 that Saul was “saved” at that point. I don’t think that God “changing Saul’s heart” is the same thing that is meant by a changed heart in the New Testament.

But God’s Spirit did come upon him in a special way. That oil of annointing was followed by the anointing of the Spirit.

The Spirit rushed upon Saul like He had upon Samson back in Judges. Same Hebrew word.

And he was a different person, meaning, I think, that he was now the king.

And he was clearly empowered by the Spirit. Empowered to prophesy and empowered to rule and to deliver.

And yet, he still keeps it a secret. V.13

“After Saul stopped prophesying, he went to the high place. Now Saul's uncle asked him and his servant, ‘Where have you been?’ ‘Looking for the donkeys,’ he said. ‘But when we saw they were not to be found, we went to Samuel.’ Saul's uncle said, ‘Tell me what Samuel said to you.’ Saul replied, ‘He assured us that the donkeys had been found.’ But he did not tell his uncle what Samuel had said about the kingship.”

Not sure why. I’m tempted to think that its fear. And this next story tells you why. V.17

“Samuel summoned the people of Israel to the LORD at Mizpah and said to them, ‘This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: 'I brought Israel up out of Egypt, and I delivered you from the power of Egypt and all the kingdoms that oppressed you.' But you have now rejected your God, who saves you out of all your calamities and distresses. And you have said, 'No, set a king over us.' So now present yourselves before the LORD by your tribes and clans.’”

This is important.

The second thing we find about God in this story is His discipline.

#2. GOD’S DISCIPLINE.

And by that, I mean His chastisement. God is about to give them the king they ask for and they deserve.

I just said that God’s compassion and mercy providentially arrange a king to deliver them. Yes.

But at the same time, God is also disciplining them with the king that they asked for.

V.19 again. I saved you! “But you have now rejected your God...and you have said ‘No, set a king over us.’”

Well, get ready. Here you go. V.20

“When Samuel brought all the tribes of Israel near, the tribe of Benjamin was chosen. Then he brought forward the tribe of Benjamin, clan by clan, and Matri's clan was chosen. Finally Saul son of Kish was chosen. [Bump Ba Dah! ...] But when they looked for him, he was not to be found.”

[First the donkey, now the king.]

“So they inquired further of the LORD, ‘Has the man come here yet?’ And the LORD said, ‘Yes, he has hidden himself among the baggage.’

[Not a great start. A scaredy cat for a king.]

‘They ran and brought him out, and as he stood among the people he was a head taller than any of the others. [Ooh, ahh. He’s tall!]

Samuel said to all the people, ‘Do you see the man the LORD has chosen? There is no one like him among all the people.’ Then the people shouted, ‘Long live the king!’”

I think that this story is supposed to humble us.

Because God gives them what they ask for.

Last week, we talked a lot about how we need to search our hearts before we ask God for something because we might regret it if we ask for the wrong things or for the wrong reasons.

Sometimes, God gives us what we have asked for to chasten us, to humble us, and to discipline us.

Now, that’s for our good, too, but it hurts.

Part of why I say that this is discipline is how the story is told.

Does it sound familiar how the different tribes come forward and are chosen?

It sounds to me like the story of Achan after Jericho. Remember how he stole from the plunder that he shouldn’t have?

And they called all of tribes one by one and settled on Achan?

It almost feels like that here. Even though it’s a king, a privilege at the end of the process.

And then he’s missing in action. Not taking responsibility. That’s going to be a problem later.

And then, all that they can see and are impressed with is that he’s tall!

It’s not bad to be tall, of course.

But the only other rulers in the Bible who were described as tall were the rulers of the other nations. Not the rulers of Israel.

So, they asked for a king like all of the other nations...and that’s what they got.

God’s discipline.

They only looked on the outside.

They didn’t get a king that had a heart for the heart of God.

He had a changed heart in some ways, yes, but there is no evidence that Saul had a heart for the heart of God.

“But who cares?! We’ve got a king! Long live the king!”  V.25

“Samuel explained to the people the regulations of the kingship. He wrote them down on a scroll and deposited it before the LORD. Then Samuel dismissed the people, each to his own home. Saul also went to his home in Gibeah, accompanied by valiant men whose hearts God had touched. But some troublemakers said, ‘How can this fellow save us?’ They despised him and brought him no gifts. But Saul kept silent.”

Hmm.

Some people weren’t sure that this was actually from the Lord.  “How can this fellow save us?”

Well, he can do it, he can save them in the power of God’s Spirit.

And that’s the last thing we find about our Lord in this story.

#3. GOD’S DELIVERANCE.

God’s salvation. God’s rescue.

In chapter 9, verse 16 God promised that this anointed king would deliver His people.

And God always keeps His promises. Chapter 11, verse 1.

“Nahash the Ammonite went up and besieged Jabesh Gilead. [Trouble.] And all the men of Jabesh said to him, ‘Make a treaty with us, and we will be subject to you.’ But Nahash the Ammonite replied, ‘I will make a treaty with you only on the condition that I gouge out the right eye of every one of you and so bring disgrace on all Israel.’

“The elders of Jabesh said to him, ‘Give us seven days so we can send messengers throughout Israel; if no one comes to rescue us, we will surrender to you.’ [And strangely enough, he takes the deal.] When the messengers came to Gibeah of Saul and reported these terms to the people, they all wept aloud.

Just then Saul was returning from the fields, behind his oxen, and he asked, ‘What is wrong with the people? Why are they weeping?’ Then they repeated to him what the men of Jabesh had said.

When Saul heard their words, the Spirit of God came upon him in power, and he burned with anger.

He took a pair of oxen, cut them into pieces, and sent the pieces by messengers throughout Israel, proclaiming, ‘This is what will be done to the oxen of anyone who does not follow Saul and Samuel.’

Then the terror of the LORD fell on the people, and they turned out as one man. When Saul mustered them at Bezek, the men of Israel numbered three hundred thousand and the men of Judah thirty thousand.

They told the messengers who had come, ‘Say to the men of Jabesh Gilead, 'By the time the sun is hot tomorrow, you will be delivered.'’ When the messengers went and reported this to the men of Jabesh, they were elated. They said to the Ammonites, ‘Tomorrow we will surrender to you, and you can do to us whatever seems good to you.’

The next day Saul separated his men into three divisions; during the last watch of the night they broke into the camp of the Ammonites and slaughtered them until the heat of the day. Those who survived were scattered, so that no two of them were left together.”

They won!

“The people then said to Samuel, ‘Who was it that asked, 'Shall Saul reign over us?' Bring these men to us and we will put them to death.’ But Saul said, ‘No one shall be put to death today, for this day the LORD has rescued Israel.’

God’s deliverance.

The Lord saves!

He loves to save His people.

That’s what He promised in chapter 9 and how He described Himself in chapter 10: “The God who saves you out of all your calamities and distresses.”

If God’s providence should encourage us.
And God’s discipline should humble us.
Then God’s deliverance should amaze us!

Amazing Grace How Sweet the Sound that Saves a Wretch Like Me!

The salvation we have in Jesus is utterly amazing.

Jesus delivers us, not just from Nahash the Ammonite, but from the wrath of God to come!

Saul was going to turn out to be a very disappointing messiah, anointed one.

But as the Spirit of God came upon Him in power, he was able to effect God’s deliverance of His people.

How much more does Jesus the Messiah save His people in the power of the Spirit!

Saul in verse 13 is at his best in all of his story.

“No one shall be put to death today, for this day the LORD has rescued Israel.”

And that leads to the confirmation of Saul’s kingship.  In case anyone wondered if God had installed a king in Israel, there was no wondering now. V.14

“Then Samuel said to the people, ‘Come, let us go to Gilgal and there reaffirm the kingship.’ So all the people went to Gilgal and confirmed Saul as king in the presence of the LORD. There they sacrificed fellowship offerings before the LORD, and Saul and all the Israelites held a great celebration.”

Who could have guessed that this was where they would end up when Kish said, “Go and look for the donkeys?”


***

A Heart for the Heart of God

01. Hannah's Prayers
02. Those Who Honor Me I Will Honor
03. Speak, LORD, for Your Servant Is Listening
04. God In A Box
05. Who Can Stand in the Presence of the LORD, This Holy God?

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Small Talk: Building a Bridge or Building a Wall

"You are actually with small talk either building a bridge or building a wall. Small talk is always going somewhere. It's either a way to break the ice and make contact or it's a way to brush you off and never have anything more to do with you."

-David Powlison, General Session #1 "All Relationships Are Intentional" at the CCEF Conference "Not Alone."

Friday, October 18, 2013

Resisting Gossip at the Kylertown Center for Active Living

I enjoyed sharing about Resisting Gossip today with a great group of men and women at the Kylertown Center for Active Living. Thanks for hosting me and having a good discussion about winning the war of the wagging tongue!

 
 

Amazon Review of "Resisting Gossip" by Daniel Holmquist

Daniel Holmquist of Just Get On the Plane posted a review at Amazon this week:

Matt Mitchell’s new book "Resisting Gossip" is filled with highly practical advice, simple Biblical counsel and really great stories! His definition of gossip is worth memorizing, “The sin of gossip is bearing bad news behind someone’s back out of a bad heart.”

The author presents his material in a clear and accessible way. He is honest about his own failures and successes. And this vulnerability helps the readers do the same, especially as Matt consistently applies the Gospel to all of us throughout the book.

Dr. Mitchell says on page 95, “When I started my research on this book, I was hoping to find a one-size-fits-all approach that could be automatically deployed. But life is messier than that, and God’s wisdom is better than that too.”

I share his convictions on the messiness of life and the wisdom of God in dealing with it all. Christians will make a significant difference in our society by coming to grips with gossip and carefully teaching others about it, even potentially resulting in many Gospel conversations.

Not all books do a good job with group discussion questions, but this one does. Each chapter ends with well-written discussion questions people will actually use. And the bonus chapter for church leaders on cultivating a gossip-resistant church will be especially advantageous for many, but only if they read the rest of the book first!

***

If you've had a chance to read it, visit the Resisting Gossip Amazon Page to leave your own review.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Tomorrow at the Kylertown Center for Active Living

Resisting Gossip is in the local news again with another provocative headline:  "Pastor Pens Book On Gossip!"

I'll be speaking tomorrow morning (11:00) to a group at the Kylertown Center for Active Living, our local senior citizens seminar. The event is open to the public and for all ages.

(And yes, I do wear other clothes than this blue pullover and orange shirt.)

Joe Valenti on "Resisting Gossip"

Blogger, musician, and pastor Joe Valenti posted some mega-encouraging words yesterday about Resisting Gossip.

Joe's review is mega-encouraging to me because:

  • The things Joe appreciates about the book were some of my chief goals in writing it.
  • Joe says that the book has been truly helpful to him and "life-giving" for his family. That's what's it's all about!
  • Joe uses words like "the latter category of awesomeness."
  • Joe is bald which we both agree is cool.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Interview with Mark Mellinger

Veteran interviewer Mark Mellinger and I recently got together on the phone to discuss Resisting Gossip: Winning the War of the Wagging Tongue.

This interview (approximately 30 minutes) will be broadcast on his show 1090 Today in Fort Wayne in a few weeks.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Monday, October 14, 2013

Marci Ferrell on Resisting Gossip

Marci Ferrell pens a helpful post on "How to Resist Gossip" at Visionary Womanhood:

This is an area of struggle for me, and the Lord continues to convict and challenge me in this sinful area of my walk with Him.  I desire to talk in a way that is pleasing to Him, and sharing information about others that is unkind or unnecessary is not very honoring to the Lord or very loving towards others. 
She has read Resisting Gossip and draws out some quotes and principles from the book that she casts in her own winsome words and then concludes:
We cannot take our words back once they have left our mouths, and James reminds us our tongue is like a fire that can set a forest ablaze (James 3:5-6).  We need to carefully choose our words and not just blurt out everything we think or feel.  May we seek the Lord for His wisdom and grace in our speech.
When we ask the Lord to guard our mouths we don’t have to live with the regret of poorly chosen words that may have caused irreversible damage to others. Pray and ask the Lord to help us be women who speak words that give life to others.  May our words be kind and encouraging.  May they truly reflect the work of the Lord Jesus in our hearts.
“Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O -Lord, my rock and my redeemer.” ~Psalm 19:14
Amen!

For more Marci Ferrell, check out her blog: Thankful Homemaker.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

[Matt's Messages] Be Careful What You Ask For

“Be Careful What You Ask For”
A Heart for the Heart of God: The Message of 1 Samuel
October 13, 2013 :: 1 Samuel 8:1-22

When we left off last time in chapter 7, it ended on a high note.  The ark of the covenant had come back. The LORD had seen to that personally.  And Samuel had begun his nation-wide, successful prophetic ministry. The nation had followed Samuel’s spiritual leadership in national repentance, and the LORD had delivered them once again from their oppressors.

And we ended by singing, “Here I raise my Ebenezer,” my stone of help, because the LORD has taken care of us so far and will continue to do so as we trust in Him!

It would be nice if the book ended right there. It would have a pretty happy ending.

But it doesn’t, and chapter 8 flashes forward to a much later time after Samuel has grown old and it seems like he doesn’t have much time left to minister in Israel.

And the people of Israel who have loved Samuel’s leadership are beginning to worry about what will come next.

And their fear and worry and other heart-level problems will add up to them asking for (really demanding) a king. And they don’t ask well. ...

In fact, I’ve titled this message, “Be Careful What You Ask For.”

What’s the rest of that sentence?

“Be Careful What You Ask For” because you just might get it.

I think that’s a big part of the lesson God has to teach us from this passage today.

1 Samuel chapter 8, verse 1.

“When Samuel grew old, he appointed his sons as judges for Israel. The name of his firstborn was Joel and the name of his second was Abijah, and they served at Beersheba. But his sons did not walk in his ways. They turned aside after dishonest gain and accepted bribes and perverted justice. So all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah. They said to him, ‘You are old, and your sons do not walk in your ways; now appoint a king to lead us, such as all the other nations have.’”

It’s sad that Samuel’s sons did not turn out well.

It’s sad that Samuel never had good role models for how to be a good dad.

Growing up with Eli as his example did not serve Samuel well.

So, when Samuel had gotten older and it was time soon for a leadership transition in Israel, it made sense, it was reasonable, that the people of Israel were concerned about who would lead them in the years to come.

Do you think it was a bad thing that they asked for a king?  V.4

“So all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah. They said to him, ‘You are old, and your sons do not walk in your ways; now appoint a king to lead us, such as all the other nations have.’”

Was that a bad request?

Let me put it another way.  Did God think that a king was a bad idea?

No. God had actually said already in Deuteronomy that eventually, He would provide a king for Israel Himself.

We saw last year that the book of Judges said again and again, “There was no king in Israel so every man did was what right in his own eyes.”

God is not fundamentally opposed to kings.

But there was still a lot wrong with their request.  And Samuel felt it. V.6

“But when they said, ‘Give us a king to lead us,’ this displeased Samuel; so he prayed to the LORD. And the LORD told him: ‘Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king. As they have done from the day I brought them up out of Egypt until this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are doing to you.”
What was wrong with their request?

I can think of at least 4 things.

#1. THEY WANTED WHAT OTHERS HAD.

Notice that they don’t just ask for a king, they ask for a specific kind of king. V.5

“...now appoint a king to lead us, such as all the other nations have.”

They were jealous of the other nations.

They were afraid of the other nations. It seems that Israel was soon going to be under attack again, and they wanted a powerful ruler “such as all the other nations have.”

They were envious.

Do you see how that could make your prayer request illegitimate?

Be careful what you ask for if you are asking out of envy.

“Lord, I just want to get good grades, like so and so.”
“Father, could I have a hotrod like that guy has?”
“God, please give me a situation like my brother or sister has: a similar family or job or ministry role.”

We can so quickly fall into the sin of envious comparison.

In your mind, go back over your prayer requests in the last week and ask yourself if any of them have been motivated by envy, wanting what others have.

I know that some of mine were.

Sometimes, we need to repent of our requests.

Be careful what you ask for.

A second way that their request went wrong was that they didn’t want to be different.

#2. THEY DIDN’T WANT TO BE DIFFERENT.

They weren’t just jealous of something good that the other nations had, they wanted something that wasn’t going to be good for them.

They wanted something bad that the other nations had.

They wanted to be just like the other nations.

They wanted to be like the pagans!

They were so envious that they no longer wanted to be holy, distinct, different.

“...now appoint a king to lead us, such as all the other nations have.”

We want to be like them. We don’t want to have to do it this different way any longer.

They didn’t want a king after God’s own heart. They just wanted a king at any cost.

Be careful what you ask for if you are asking to be like everyone else.

Because God’s people are supposed to be different.

If the world is full of hate and anger, we are supposed to be full of love and gentleness.

If the world is full of greed and covetousness, we are supposed to be hard-workers and generous givers.

If the world is full of division and gossip and slander, we are suppose to be full of unity and togetherness and fellowship.

God’s people are supposed to be different.

Philippians 2 says that we are supposed to shine like stars in a dark universe.

We do things differently.

Now, that’s not always fun. In fact, it’s often not fun.

Who likes to be different? Who likes to stand out?

Most of us like to go with the flow.

I know that I do.

And it can invade my prayers.

Lord, why do I have to stand up and be different like this?

Can’t I just do whatever everyone else is doing?

Have you prayed something like that recently?

“Lord, this being holy hurts. I’m not sure I want do it any longer.

I’d rather get lazy than be a hard worker.
I’d rather sleep with and move in with my boyfriend than wait until marriage.
I’d rather steal from my employer than keep being filled with integrity.
I’d rather lie about my hours than to put down the truth.
I’d rather get that person back than wait for God’s justice.
I’d rather rant and rave on Facebook than to be careful with my tongue.

“Lord, would you bless one of those plans?”

“Please give me a king like all the other nations have!”

I don’t want to be different any longer.

Do you see how they were going wrong and how easy it is?

The third thing was the worst.

#3. THEY WERE REJECTING THE LORD.

Did you catch that in verse 7?

When the Lord answered Samuel?

“And the LORD told him: ‘Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king.”

God is saying that they already had a king. The king was the LORD.

And He was enough.

But they couldn’t see Him.

And they weren’t trusting Him.

So they required that Samuel give them a king like as all the other nations had.

Now, two things about that.

First, take this to heart if you are speaking the Lord’s truth to someone and they reject it.  They aren’t rejecting you. They are rejecting the Lord.

So, if you share the gospel with someone and they don’t receive Christ, don’t take it personally.  They aren’t rejecting you, they are rejecting the Lord.

If you are preaching or counseling the Word out of love for someone and telling them what they need to hear, and they put up their hand and say, “Shut up,” remember that it is foremost the Lord who is being rejected.

That’s the only way to emotionally survive this kind of thing.

But secondly, see how logical yet wicked this thing is that they did.

It’s like the ark. They wanted the ark to be something they could see, that would they could wield, that had power, that they could trust in.

And they haven’t learned their lesson.

Now, they want a king that they can see, that they follow, that has power, that they can trust in.

They want a king, they don’t want the King of Kings.

They were rejecting the Lord.

How many times do we pray for something so that we won’t have to trust in the Lord any more?

James chapter 4 tells us what’s wrong with us.

“You want something but don't get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have, because you do not ask God.  When you ask [be careful what you ask for], you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures. You adulterous people, don't you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.”

Do you see the connection I’m making?

Sometimes we ask God for an idol!

“Lord, would you please give me an idol?”

“Lord, would you please give me a substitute for you, to take your place?”

It could be money. We think we’re asking for our daily needs, but at heart, we’re really asking for a trust fund that will make sure we’re comfortable forever.

It could be a well-functioning government.

It could be a new relationship.

We think that we’re asking for something good, but we’re really asking for a substitute god.

I’m sure that it seemed reasonable to the people of Israel.

Of course, we need a king! That’s exactly what we need.

Never mind that we have the Lord.  We want a king!

And the Lord knows that this has been their pattern all along. V.8

“...they have rejected me as their king. As they have done from the day I brought them up out of Egypt until this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are doing to you. Now listen to them; but warn them solemnly and let them know what the king who will reign over them will do.’

Be careful what you ask for, because you just might get it. V.10

“Samuel told all the words of the LORD to the people who were asking him for a king. He said, ‘This is what the king who will reign over you will do: He will take your sons and make them serve with his chariots and horses, and they will run in front of his chariots. Some he will assign to be commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and others to plow his ground and reap his harvest, and still others to make weapons of war and equipment for his chariots. He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive groves and give them to his attendants. He will take a tenth of your grain and of your vintage and give it to his officials and attendants. Your menservants and maidservants and the best of your cattle and donkeys he will take for his own use. He will take a tenth of your flocks, and you yourselves will become his slaves. When that day comes, you will cry out for relief from the king you have chosen, and the LORD will not answer you in that day.’”

You want a king like everybody else has, do you?

I’ll tell you what a king like that will do.  He will take.

He will take so much that you will cry out to the Lord as if he were your enemy, not your king!

And in that day, the LORD will not answer you your request.

Be careful what you ask for because the next time you might not get it.

With faith-filled obedience comes blessing.

But with un-trusting disobedience comes danger.

And here’s where they went wrong and stayed there.

#4. THEY INSISTED ON THEIR OWN WAY.

They demanded their own will.  V.19

“But the people refused to listen to Samuel. ‘No!’ they said. ‘We want a king over us. Then we will be like all the other nations, with a king to lead us and to go out before us and fight our battles.’”

They refused to listen. They insisted on their own way.

The King James says in v.19, “Nay; but we will have a king over us;

They wouldn’t take “No” for an answer.

It was “Not thy will but my will be done.”  The total opposite of the Lord’s prayer.

Do you see how dangerous that is?

But we do it all the time, don’t we?

“Not they will, Lord, but my will be done.”

I’m going to do it like Frank Sinatra–“my way.”

My way seems right.
My way seems best.
My way seems logical, reasonable, sensible, doable.

Your way, Lord, seems difficult and scary and illogical and hard.

And I’m not going to do it!

So, Lord, if you’ll bless my plan, then great.

But it’s my way or the highway.

Be careful what you ask for.

You just might get it.  V.21

“When Samuel heard all that the people said, he repeated it before the LORD. The LORD answered, ‘Listen to them and give them a king.’ Then Samuel said to the men of Israel, ‘Everyone go back to his town.’”

Now, we know who that next king is going to be and what kind of a disappointment he will turn out to be.

But even if you’ve never read ahead, you can see that this answer to their request is at best, second-best.

And that’s what we’re going to see if we pray, insisting on our own way.

What a sad moment in the history of Israel.

It wasn’t wrong to ask Samuel for help, but it was disastrous to demand that the LORD give them a king like all the other nations.

It’s important for us to check our hearts as we bring our requests to God.

Be careful what you ask for.

Are we praying out of jealousy and envy?

“Lord, give me some of what they have.”

Are we praying out of a rejection of holiness?

“Lord, I’m tired of being different. Can’t we just go with the flow?”

Are we praying for a god-substitute?

“Lord, I don’t want you, I just want your gifts. I just want something I can trust in.”

Are we praying with a demand for our will to be done?

Or are we praying for the Lord’s will to be done?
To have what God wants us to have?
To be holy as He is holy, different as He is different? Refreshingly different!

Are we praying to have the Lord Himself and enjoy Him forever?

Let’s check our hearts and present our requests to God.

***

A Heart for the Heart of God

01. Hannah's Prayers
02. Those Who Honor Me I Will Honor
03. Speak, LORD, for Your Servant Is Listening
04. God In A Box
05. Who Can Stand in the Presence of the LORD, This Holy God?

Saturday, October 12, 2013