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Thursday, February 27, 2014

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Win a Copy of "Preparing Your Teens for College"

I'm so glad this book came out before any more of my kids became teens!  (Read my review.)

Today, I'm happy to announce a contest to win a free copy of Preparing Your Teens for College.

Tyndale House has given me a free copy to hand off, and here's all you have to do to win:

1. Leave a comment on this post (either here or on Facebook) with your name on it.

2. Wait to see if you win. I'll be drawing the names out of a hat. It's that easy!

You can increase your chances of winning by posting about this contest on your social media page (FB, Twitter, Blog, Pinterest, etc.). Just send me an email or leave a comment with the link so that I know that you've expanded the reach of the contest.  For each time you link to the contest, you get your name added to the hat one more time (limit of 7 chances, the contest ends at 7pm EST on Monday night, March 3rd).

I'll announce the winner on Tuesday.

Check back here on Monday for an interview with Alex about his book!

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Preparing Your Teens for College

I just bought 3 copies Preparing Your Teens for College by Alex Chediak, and I recommend it to you.

WTSBooks has them on sale right now for 50% off if you buy 3 and 37% off for just 1.

Preparing Your Teens for College is a 5 star book. I was privileged to read an advanced copy, and this is what I said in my Amazon review:
I thoroughly enjoyed reading Preparing Your Teens for College. My oldest child is 13 years old, and she's got brothers that are 12, 10, and 9. So we're just on the cusp of this teenage adventure, and I believe that reading this book has just oriented my next 8 years!
Preparing Your Teens for College is a discipleship manual for young people in our current cultural situation. It's not a book about college so much as about following Christ into young adulthood. Simply excellent.
You can learn more about the book at Alex's website, including the first two chapters, the table of contents, the foreword, an overview, and more.

Tune in tomorrow morning to find out how you can win a free copy here.

And on Monday, Alex has agreed to answer some questions about his book!

Monday, February 24, 2014

3 Sermons on "Resisting Gossip" by Marty Schoenleber

My friend and fellow EFCA pastor Marty Schoenleber has just finished a three message series on "Becoming a Gossip Resistant Church" for Trinity Church.

Marty used Resisting Gossip as his key text as he prepared his series and even quotes from it extensively. The Trinity Church small groups are working their way through the material, as well.

It was really encouraging to hear some stories of how God has been using it in the community life of this church. Praise the Lord!

1. What Is Gossip?

2. Why Do We Gossip?

3. Developing a Lifestyle of Resisting Gossip


Sunday, February 23, 2014

[Matt's Messages] "Find Strength in the LORD Your God"

“Find Strength in the LORD Your God”
A Heart for the Heart of God: The Message of 1 Samuel
February 23, 2014 :: 1 Samuel 29:1-30:31

This book is coming to a head. We’re almost to the dramatic ending of the whole thing–1 Samuel.

The last two sermons in 1 Samuel have both had cliffhanger endings. The last sermon featured King Saul who was out of his mind scared of the impending battle with the Philistines. And he turned to a medium, to witchcraft, to dark forces to try to scrabble up some winning battle plan.  He got more than he bargained for because, apparently, Samuel showed up and told him that the very next day he would die and his nation would lose the battle.

And with that dark foreshadowing, the chapter ended with Saul slipping out into the night.  Cliffhanger. We will have to wait to see what happens next to Saul.

Two sermons ago, we had a cliffhanger involving the anointed but not yet king David.

David has been playing a dangerous game. He got tired of being chased by Saul and decided to hide among the Philistines. He became the head of a mercenary army ostensibly working for Achish the biggest Philistine king.

But he’s actually been a double agent. David has not been raiding the Hebrew settlements but Canaanite ones. He’s just been very careful to cover his tracks.

And Achish has been successfully fooled into thinking that David is loyal.

Too successfully!  Because when we last left off, Achish has asked David to be his personal bodyguard and to fight right alongside him as the Philistines directly go up against King Saul and the Israelites!

Do you see the quandary that David is in?

Here’s his dilemma: If he fights for Achish now, he will be raising his hands against the LORD’s anointed which he has made clear that he will not do.

But if he shows his colors now, he is deep in Philistine territory and in deep deep trouble with Achish.

It seemed like David was in a lose-lose situation at the cliffhanger ending of chapter 28:3.

So, it’s all coming to a head.  And that’s where we start off today.

I’m going to call today’s message “Find Strength in the LORD Your God.”

Those words come straight out of what David does in chapter 30, verse 6.  We’ll see that in a few minutes. And we’ll see how we are to do it today. “Find Strength in the LORD Your God.”

And I’ve got 3 reasons today to find strength in the LORD Your God.  So, if you’re taking notes, there will be 3 points.

Chapter 29, verse 1.

The Philistines gathered all their forces at Aphek, and Israel camped by the spring in Jezreel. As the Philistine rulers marched with their units of hundreds and thousands, David and his men were marching at the rear with Achish.”

And they are probably wondering, “How are we ever going to get out of this one?” v.3

“The commanders of the Philistines asked, ‘What about these Hebrews?’ [Where’d they come from?] Achish replied, ‘Is this not David, who was an officer of Saul king of Israel? He has already been with me for over a year, and from the day he left Saul until now, I have found no fault in him.’ [I’ve turned him. He’s my agent. He’s my guy now!]

But the Philistine commanders were angry with him and said, ‘Send the man back, that he may return to the place you assigned him. He must not go with us into battle, or he will turn against us during the fighting. How better could he regain his master's favor than by taking the heads of our own men? [We know that he knows about taking heads.] Isn't this the David they sang about in their dances: ‘'Saul has slain his thousands, and David his tens of thousands'?’”

I don’t think so. We don’t want him! V.6

“So Achish called David and said to him, ‘As surely as the LORD lives, you have been reliable, and I would be pleased to have you serve with me in the army. From the day you came to me until now, I have found no fault in you, but the rulers don't approve of you.  Turn back and go in peace; do nothing to displease the Philistine rulers.’”

I can just imagine the look on David’s face.

“What, huh? Oh. Hey!”

“‘But what have I done?’ asked David. ‘What have you found against your servant from the day I came to you until now? Why can't I go and fight against the enemies of my lord the king?’ [Inside, he’s going “O boy! O, yes!” And winking at his guys.]

Achish answered, ‘I know that you have been as pleasing in my eyes as an angel of God; nevertheless, the Philistine commanders have said, 'He must not go up with us into battle.'  Now get up early, along with your master's servants who have come with you, and leave in the morning as soon as it is light.’ So David and his men got up early in the morning to go back to the land of the Philistines, and the Philistines went up to Jezreel.”

Wshew!

Somehow David has gotten out of his dilemma.

He will not fight against Saul. He will have no hand in Saul’s downfall before the Philistines.

But David also escapes from Achish. Achish still thinks that David is his best guy!

Isn’t David clever?

Is that what we’re supposed to think?

David certainly is clever. We are supposed to chuckle at what he gets away with and how Achish is fooled.

But was this escape engineered by the wisdom of David?

I don’t think so.

I think we’re supposed to see the hand of the LORD here.

He’s working all things towards His plan and purpose. He’s keeping His promises to David. He’s working all things to David’s good.

Let’s make that point number one.

Find Strength in the LORD Your God because.

#1. YOUR GOD IS WORKING ALL THINGS TO YOUR GOOD.

I almost entitled this message, “The Gospel for Knuckleheads.”

Because I tend to think that David has been acting like a knucklehead for the last several chapters. I don’t think that his foray into being a double agent was the wisest thing he could had picked.

And it’s not because he’s a knucklehead that God is working these things out for him.

This is not an encouragement to be a knucklehead!

But because David has (at bottom) a heart for the heart of God and because God has good plans for Him, God is working all things out to David’s good and God’s glory.

That’s Romans 8:28.

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

Even the evil things. Even the bad things.

Even the evil schemes of our enemies. Notice how God uses David’s own enemies to accomplish His good plans for David!

And the same is true for you and me today.

Even if we’ve been knuckleheads, God is working all things to our good and to His glory. So we can find strength in Him.

That’s no reason to be a knucklehead, but it’s good news for those of us who have been!

Now, just imagine how these guys felt after leaving Achish.  They were at the top of their emotions. What a relief! What a joy!

But now they were to hit the absolute bottom. And probably as great as they felt going into it, made it all the more worse when they got there. Chapter 30, verse 1.

“David and his men reached Ziklag on the third day. Now the Amalekites had raided the Negev and Ziklag. They had attacked Ziklag and burned it, and had taken captive the women and all who were in it, both young and old. They killed none of them, but carried them off as they went on their way. When David and his men came to Ziklag, they found it destroyed by fire and their wives and sons and daughters taken captive. So David and his men wept aloud until they had no strength left to weep. David's two wives had been captured–Ahinoam of Jezreel and Abigail, the widow of Nabal of Carmel.”

Wow. I can’t imagine how they felt.

Apparently, the Amalekites (sworn enemies of Israel since Exodus 17) had gotten wind that David and his army had gone away on a Philistine tour of duty.

Now was their chance, and they took it. They had totally decimated David’s city and taken away all of their families. David’s two wives. Everybody.

Can you imagine how they felt?

“David and his men wept aloud until they had no strength left to weep.”

That hurts.

David is getting a pounding. It’s probably felt like a non-stop pounding ever since chapter 18. This is the lowest point, the last straw.

It’s important to note that this happens to someone who basically follows God.

Bad things happen to followers of God.

Don’t let anyone tell you that the Christian life is all happy happy happy all the time.

Jesus said to us that in this world we will have trouble.

We will have trouble.

The question is. Where do you turn when the trouble comes?

We saw where Saul turned. He turned to the darkness.

Where did David turn?

Where do you turn when you have a heart for the heart of God? V.6

“David was greatly distressed because the men were talking of stoning him; each one was bitter in spirit because of his sons and daughters. [It’s David’s fault. He’s the leader. He should have had a better plan! “David was greatly distressed.”] But David found strength in the LORD his God.”

“But David found strength in the LORD his God.”

There it is.

Even though his life seems to have crashed to an end, David found strength in the LORD his God. Because:

#2. YOUR GOD IS WORTH TRUSTING IN, NO MATTER WHAT.

Notice that phrase in verse 6, “his God.”

God is personal. It wasn’t just the LORD God. But the LORD his God.

David belongs to the LORD.

Davids knows his LORD.

And He knows that His Lord is worth trusting.

David shows once again that he has a heart for the heart of God.

In fact, this is the last story of David in 1 Samuel, and the last major thing we see him doing in 1 Samuel is taking heart, finding strength in the LORD his God.

King Saul had turned to rebellious witchcraft.

David turned to the LORD’s own high priest. V.7

“Then David said to Abiathar the priest, the son of Ahimelech, ‘Bring me the ephod.’ Abiathar brought it to him, and David inquired of the LORD, ‘Shall I pursue this raiding party? Will I overtake them?’ ‘Pursue them,’ he answered. ‘You will certainly overtake them and succeed in the rescue.’

David and the six hundred men with him came to the Besor Ravine, where some stayed behind, for two hundred men were too exhausted to cross the ravine. But David and four hundred men continued the pursuit.

They found an Egyptian in a field and brought him to David. [This is very important. God is doing it. Without this guy they would never find them.] They gave him water to drink and food to eat–part of a cake of pressed figs and two cakes of raisins. He ate and was revived, for he had not eaten any food or drunk any water for three days and three nights.

David asked him, ‘To whom do you belong, and where do you come from?’ He said, ‘I am an Egyptian, the slave of an Amalekite. My master abandoned me when I became ill three days ago. We raided the Negev of the Kerethites and the territory belonging to Judah and the Negev of Caleb. And we burned Ziklag.’

[Notice the restraint as David does not kill him. This guy has the intel that they need. V.15]

David asked him, ‘Can you lead me down to this raiding party?’ He answered, ‘Swear to me before God that you will not kill me or hand me over to my master, and I will take you down to them.’” [ok]
“He led David down, and there they were, scattered over the countryside, eating, drinking and reveling because of the great amount of plunder they had taken from the land of the Philistines and from Judah. [Never suspecting that David and his men would ever be so close.]

David fought them from dusk until the evening of the next day, and none of them got away, except four hundred young men who rode off on camels and fled.

David recovered everything the Amalekites had taken, including his two wives. Nothing was missing: young or old, boy or girl, plunder or anything else they had taken. David brought everything back. He took all the flocks and herds, and his men drove them ahead of the other livestock, saying, ‘This is David's plunder.’”

Wow.  Our God is worth trusting in, no matter what.

Now, the Bible doesn’t promise that we will succeed in everything that we ever try. This passage is not teaching us that all of our trials will end up working out in a happy way by the end of the day.

But it is showing us once again that God is faithful to keep His promises, and that He works all things to our good if we trust Him and love Him, and that in the end (the very end) everything will work out to our good!

That’s what heaven is. It’s the enjoyment of all good things in Christ.

And we might have to wait for it, but it’s coming, for sure, no matter what.

Where are you turning in your moments of trial?

Are you turning to alcohol?  “A glass a wine makes everything okay.”

Are you turning to friends? “I get by with a little help from my friends.”

Are you turning to your own resources, your own skills and bank account and cleverness?

Are you turning to your government?

Are you turning to other religions?

Are you turning to other relationships?

Where do you turn when the bottom falls out?

When you are greatly distressed and weeping aloud until you have no strength to weep?

Find Strength in the LORD your God.

Because He alone is worth trusting, no matter what.

He proves it over and over again!

In this story, He’s gotten them out of the jam with Achish, He’s provided an Egyptian guide at just the right moment, and He’s given them victory in battle and the spoils of war. “This is David’s plunder.”

But, notice, that David doesn’t keep all of the plunder. V.21

“Then David came to the two hundred men who had been too exhausted to follow him and who were left behind at the Besor Ravine. They came out to meet David and the people with him. As David and his men approached, he greeted them.”

“Look! I’ve got your families back!” v.22

“But all the evil men and troublemakers among David's followers said, ‘Because they did not go out with us, we will not share with them the plunder we recovered. However, each man may take his wife and children and go.’

David replied, ‘No, my brothers, you must not do that with what the LORD has given us. He has protected us and handed over to us the forces that came against us. Who will listen to what you say? The share of the man who stayed with the supplies is to be the same as that of him who went down to the battle. All will share alike.’ David made this a statute and ordinance for Israel from that day to this.”

But it’s more than that. He gives away more than that. V.26

“When David arrived in Ziklag, he sent some of the plunder to the elders of Judah, who were his friends, saying, ‘Here is a present for you from the plunder of the LORD's enemies.’ He sent it to those who were in Bethel, Ramoth Negev and Jattir; to those in Aroer, Siphmoth, Eshtemoa and Racal; to those in the towns of the Jerahmeelites and the Kenites; to those in Hormah, Bor Ashan, Athach and Hebron; and to those in all the other places where David and his men had roamed.”

Here’s the principle:

#3. YOUR GOD IS SO GENEROUS, THAT YOU CAN BE, TOO.

David’s men didn’t want to be generous, but David demanded it.

Share and share alike.

Why? V.23 again. Because of “what the LORD has given us. He has protected us and handed over to us the forces that came against us.”

If God has been generous like that to us, then we can be generous to others, too.

And not just to those who might have had a part if they hadn’t been so tired.

But to the surrounding areas. God has been so good to us, we can be good them, too.

You know, that’s still playing the dangerous game, isn’t it?

These people in verses 27-31 are the people that Achish thinks David is wiping out, but instead he’s giving them gifts.

The Messiah, the anointed one, is giving gifts to these people who will one day name him as king.

That’s interesting, isn’t it?

David, the Messiah, the anointed one, is giving gifts to those people who will one day soon rightly name David as their king.

Remind you of anybody?

Great David’s greater Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, has won a great battle Himself and gives gifts to those who belong to Him!

And God has been generous to us and give us grace upon grace, then how much more should we be generous with others?

Christians should be the most generous people on the planet.

Find strength in the LORD your God because He’s so generous!

He gave His One and Only Son.

So that whosoever believes on Him will not perish but have everlasting life.

If God has loved us like that, then how generous we can be with others?!

***
20. Find Strength in the LORD Your God

Saturday, February 22, 2014

More Winter Sun


My wife calls these daffodils, "Winter Sun."

Friday, February 21, 2014

Fred Sanders on the Trinity

Today, I had a 4 hour road trip on my hands, and I improved the time by listening to these stimulating talks from the EFCA Theology Pre-Conference "God In Three Persons, Blessed Trinity" by BIOLA professor Fred Sanders.


I really enjoyed listening to Sanders teach (first time for me). His mind is awake and nimble, and when he talks, he makes learning about the deep things of God fun. I commend these (FREE!) talks to you.

Introduction by Greg Strand

1. God in Three Persons Blessed Trinity, Framing the Issue (Audio)

Fred Sanders

2. Approaching the Doctrine of the Trinity, pre-conference session (Audio) (Notebook outline)

3. God According to the Gospel, pre-conference session (Audio) (Notebook outline)

4. Tacit Trinitarianism and Q & A, pre-conference session (Audio) (Notebook outline)

5. The Truth and Reality of the Trinity Affects Everything, pre-conference breakout session (Audio)

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Great Resources for Preaching Apocalyptic Literature

Last week, I linked to the resources from Stay Sharp 2014, the theology conference of the Allegheny District of the EFCA.

The theme of this year's Stay Sharp was "The Return of Christ"  drawn from the article #9 of the EFCA's Statement of Faith:
We believe in the personal, bodily and premillennial return of our Lord Jesus Christ. The coming of Christ, at a time known only to God, demands constant expectancy and, as our blessed hope, motivates the believer to godly living, sacrificial service and energetic mission. 
Part of what Greg Strand did with his teaching time was to re-introduce us to the genre of apocalyptic literature--that most bizarre of biblical genres!

I was reminded during the sessions of this series of lectures from the Simeon Trust held at College Church in Wheaton a few years ago, especially the ones by D.A. Carson:
Highly recommended.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Standing Tall After Falling Short

Standing Tall After Falling Short is a tightly written book of biblical and practical counsel for anyone who has made a number of bad choices and is now suffering the consequences. Emily Chase has been a counselor for decades, and it shows–true life stories of broken people populate nearly every page.

Chase also cleverly weaves one case study narrative throughout the entire book that keeps the reader hooked (even if a biblically savvy reader can see where she’s going with it). One of the best chapters is all about rebuilding trust with others. Chase never pretends that it’ll be easy, but she continually offers hope for those who want to grow. Recommended.

***

Thanks, Emily, for the free review copy!

Monday, February 17, 2014

"Resisting Gossip" Now Available in Asia!

Rejoice with me!

CLC Philippines is now publishing Resisting Gossip (in English) in these countries:

Philippines
Singapore
Papua New Guinea
Indonesia
Thailand
Malaysia
China

Check out the CLC Philippines website for more details, and if you're in Asia, you can order one today for only 250.00Php!

Sunday, February 16, 2014

[Matt's Messages] "Never, Never" Hebrews 13:1-8

“Never, Never”
Oaxaca Missions Team Commissioning Service
February 16, 2014 :: Hebrews 13:1-8

I’m going to take a break this week from our series in 1 Samuel to preach a message specifically for our Oaxaca Mission Team. We have prayed for them and are sending them on a one week ministry trip starting on Friday.

And I met with the team a few weeks ago and got to do the devotions, and I picked this passage, Hebrews 13:1-8.

Want to know why?

About four years ago, we took a survey of the congregation and asked you all what your favorite or most precious promise was from God’s Word.

Which of God’s promises is your favorite or most precious?

And a number of you put phrases from this passage on your survey sheet.

Specifically this phrase, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”

Today’s message title?  “Never, Never.”

“Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”

That’s the promise that I gave our OMT during their devotions, and it’s a promise–not just for them–but for all of us who are staying behind, as well.

Did you ever get separated from your parents and get lost?

I remember when I was little, I was following my Mom who was wearing a certain dress. I remember it as a grey woolen dress.  I don’t know if it really was.

But I was following her as she went shopping through the Mall.  Dooty, dooty, dooty, doo.

But being Captain Observant, that’s what my wife calls me sometimes, being Captain Observant, I had not realized that I was following some other lady wearing a grey woolen dress.

And when I did realize it, I realized I was lost.

And alone.

Did you ever do that?

Did you ever feel that way?

Do you kinda feel that way about life right now?

Do you feel alone?

On your own?

Adrift and by yourself?

Hear this word from God.  It’s in verse 5 and the writer to the Hebrews is quoting Deuteronomy 31:6.

Catch that.  This New Testament writer is quoting Old Testament Scripture and applying it to his readers and to us.

And he says, “God said it!” v.5

“Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”

#1. NEVER LEFT, NEVER FORSAKEN.

Isn’t that a great promise?

Isn’t that a precious promise?

That’s what God says.

Never left, never forsaken.

Ok. You can go home now. That’s all I have to say. ☺

If we get this into our minds and into our hearts, it will change everything.

Never left, never forsaken.

Never deserted. Never alone.

Because of this promise, I know that I am never alone.

It may feel like it at times, but I never am.

How comforting. How encouraging. How confidence building!

Never alone.

One time, I deserted my daughter Robin.

I didn’t mean to!

She was really little back when we had 4, count-em 4 car seats, and none of them could unbuckle themselves, we went to the Philipsburg library.

Back when it was on Pine Street.  We parked on the street.

We unbuckled everybody (or so I thought) and got everyone across the road and went into the library.

Mommy and the boys went to the children’s section. I carried little Isaac in his carseat to the children’s section and then went up and down the adult stacks looking for something to read.

And then I circled back and counted my children. 1-2-3.

Where’s Robin?

“Where’s Robin?”

Oh no!

I ran back out across the street and opened the van door, and there was my little girl bawling her eyes out.

She had been left alone. Forsaken. Deserted.

And it hurt.

I apologized and I’m still apologizing for that.

I scooped her up in my arms and carried her into the library and just about never left her side the rest of the day.

God is a much better Daddy than I am.

“Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”

Sometimes it will feel like it.

This promise does not mean that we will have victory in every endeavor.

It means that God will be with us no matter what happens.

God’s presence.

Never left, never forsaken. Never alone.

There once was a monk called Brother Lawrence.  And he wrote a short little book called, “The Practice of the Presence of God.”

And the whole point of the book is to remind yourself daily and hourly and minutely that the Lord is here.

“God is here.”
“God is here.”
“God is here.”

What can you do to remind yourself of this promise?

You don’t have to do anything for it to be true!

This promise is not contingent on you or me at all. It is. It just IS!

“Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”

But what can you and I do to remind ourselves of that?

Our OMT knows this already. This is not new information.  But we need reminders.

I just preached on this the last Sunday of last year with “Search Me” from Psalm 139.

God is everywhere. We are not alone.

We know that, but we need reminders.

God is here.

How confidence building!  That’s what the author says in the very next verse. V.6

“So we say with confidence (because he never leaves us, never forsakes us), ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?”

Here’s another great and precious promise.

#2. THE LORD IS MY HELPER.

Never leaving, never forsaken and active on my behalf!

Do you see that?

It’s not just that he’s here.

We can say the ground is always here, but that doesn’t mean so much.

You might have a crazy uncle that’s always at the family reunions.

“He’s here. But he don’t amount to much!”

But that’s not how God is here.

He is here to help.

“The Lord is my helper.”

Now that, is an AMAZING statement!

That is a mind-blower.

Is your mind blown?

Are you brains cooking in there trying to get that?

God is not here asking for help.

God doesn’t ask us for help.

God is offering help.  God is a helper.

He serves us.

Now, don’t get me wrong. He stays God.  We remain his servants. The OMT is going to Mexico to serve the Lord.

We submit to Him and not the other way around.

But He calls Himself our helper because He helps us.

He assists us.
He supports us.
He brings us help.

This is also a quote from the Old Testament. It’s Psalm 118, verses 6 and 7.

And God calls himself a helper.

Application?

I know that I can do hard things.

What? Stop the car.

Why did I say that?

This is a passage about God’s presence.

Why did I bring up doing hard things?

Because that’s the main point of Hebrews 13.

That’s why the writer hands out these great and precious promises.

To tell us that God will HELP US (He’s our helper) to do hard things.

Like: v.1.  Loving the Brothers.

“Keep on loving each other as brothers.”

That’s not always easy, is it?  We can all be difficult to love sometimes.

I’ll bet that some of our OMT members will have to remind themeslves of that verse at some point in the next two week. “Keep on loving each other as brother.”

Because you might get on each others’ nerves.

But you can because God is with you.

Keep on doing it.

V.2 Entertaining Strangers

“Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it.”

Now, by “entertain,” it means show hospitality, not put on a show.

You don’t have to find a stranger and then do a little song and dance.

It means showing hospitality to strangers.

Our OMT is going to meet a lot of strangers in the next two weeks. And most of them will not even share their language.

But you can do it. Because–Never/Never.

V.3 Visiting Prisoners. It’s getting harder, isn’t it?  “Remember those in prison as if you were their fellow prisoners, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.”

That’s really hard.  But the Lord is your helper.

V.4 Honoring Marriage. “Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed be kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral.”

You can do that.  The Lord is your helper.

No pre-marital sex. No living together before marriage. No adultery in marriage. No pornography defiling the marriage bed. Marriage honored.

Is that hard to do? It can be.

Who is your helper?

V.5 Being Content With What I Have.  “Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have...”

BECAUSE God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”

Do you see the connection?

Is it hard to be content with what you have?

Yeah, but God is present.

He won’t leave you. He won’t forsake you.

And HE IS ENOUGH!

Amen?

Because the Lord is my helper, you know that you can do hard things.

You can take risks.

You can hop a plane even if you never have before.

You can go someplace where they don’t speak your language.

You can look at poverty in the face.

Or, if you’re called to stay behind. You can pray and wait and support those who are going.

You know, nearly (if not every) time a promise appears in Scripture there is a command nearby. And vice versa.

Because the commands of God are promise-driven by the great and precious promises of God.

We can do hard things because God is present. Never leaving/never forsaking, offering to help.

What hard things is God calling you to do?

V.7 says, “Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith.”

Maybe the hard thing for you is following church leaders.

Or maybe it’s something completely different.

Maybe it’s telling someone about Jesus.

Not in Mexico but in Pennyslvania.

Does that scare you?

Who is your helper? V.6

“What can man do to me?”

Last promise and then we’re done.

#3. JESUS CHRIST NEVER CHANGES.

Verse 8.  “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”

He is not going to change.

Jesus is not moody and capricious.

Jesus is not a fair weather friend.

Jesus is immutable.

That’s a big word that means unchanging.

Jesus stays the same.

And because of that: I know that I Don’t Have to be Afraid.

We don’t have to worry that Jesus will be here today and gone tomorrow.

Everything else in life changes.

Things fall apart.

But Jesus stays the same.

We don’t have to worry that He’ll fade away.

It might seem at times that He is nowhere near.

He’s like a Daddy leaving us alone strapped in our car seat in the van.

But, no, that’s not how it is.

God is here.

Jesus is here with us through His Holy Spirit.

And He’s not going anywhere.

One more thought.

These promises are only good for believers in and followers of the Lord Jesus Christ.

If you are not yet a follower of Christ by faith then you can’t take these promises for you.

Yes, God is here but that is not necessarily good news for you.

God is present in Hell, as well.  He is present there only to punish.

These promises are only good news for those who belong to Jesus.

Jesus knows what it means to be forsaken.

Because He was forsaken for us.

On the Cross, He cried, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?”

What does that mean?

It means, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?”

And even though He knew the answer, he was living the question.

The answer was: for you and for me.

Jesus was forsaken so that you and I never will be!

Receive Jesus as your Lord and Savior. He never changes.

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever!

And that unchanging Savior says, NEVER/NEVER. “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Winter Sun


My wife calls these daffodils, "Winter Sun."

Friday, February 14, 2014

My Valentine


Happiest dude on the planet.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Stay Sharp Resources

I love being part of an association of churches that values biblical doctrine.

Last week was our Allegheny District Stay Sharp Conference at Waterdam Church in the Pittsburgh area.

Our speaker was Greg Strand of the EFCA who spoke on the return of Christ.

The recordings from our event are now online at the Waterdam Church website.

Greg's recommended reading list is also posted there.

We've also posted a few other resources related to the subject of eschatology and will probably post more soon.

Sunday, February 09, 2014

[Matt's Messages] "Turning Away"

“Turning Away”
A Heart for the Heart of God: The Message of 1 Samuel
February 9, 2014 :: 1 Samuel 28:3-25

If you remember, last week was a cliffhanger.

David, the anointed but not yet king, is on the run from Saul, the one-time anointed but now failed king of Israel.

And David has run all the way into the arms of his enemy, the Philistines.

David has become a double agent, living in Philistine territory, pretending to be a mercenary for the Philistines. Every day he goes out on a raid and kills some other Canaanites but comes back and reports in to the evil boss that he was out killing Israelites.

And up till now, this dangerous strategy has worked. Achish, the Philistine king is convinced.

But it’s worked too well.  Achish has told David that he and his men will fight right alongside him in the upcoming war against Saul and Israel.

Uh oh.  Quick thinking David says, “You will see for yourself what your servant can do.” And now, we’re all wondering if and how David can get out of this one.

But then the writer of our book leaves us hanging on the cliff.

And he moves the camera into the camp of Saul. And shows us just how far Saul has fallen.

The title I’ve given this message is “Turning Away.”

This story is the beginning of the end for King Saul.

And it shows how far Saul has turned away from the LORD.

And, scarily, how far the LORD has turned away from Saul.

“Turning Away”

Before we read verse 3, I have a trivia question for you.

Does anybody know what is the first sentence of Charles Dickens famous novel, “A Christmas Carol?”

The answer is, “Marley was dead, to begin with...”

And that opening sentences alerts the reader that something strange was going to happened about this Marley was certainly dead to begin with.

Well, let’s read verse 3 of 1 Samuel 28.

“Now Samuel was dead, and all Israel had mourned for him and buried him in his own town of Ramah. Saul had expelled the mediums and spiritists from the land.”

Hmmm. That’s an interesting way to start a story.

We were told back in chapter 25, verse 1 that Samuel had died and that he had been buried in Ramah. This is not new information.

The second sentence is new.  “Saul had expelled the mediums and spiritists from the land.”

King James, “Saul had put away those that had familiar spirits, and the wizards, out of the land.”

New Living Translation, “And Saul had banned all mediums and psychics from the land of Israel.”
This is in accord with what the Law of Moses said. Check out Deuteronomy 18 some time. Magic and spiritism and mediums and all of that kind of thing was to be banned from Israel, and Saul (in his good moments) had been faithful to do so during his reign.

Why are we told that?

We shall see.  Samuel was dead, to begin with.... v.4

“The Philistines assembled and came and set up camp at Shunem, while Saul gathered all the Israelites and set up camp at Gilboa.”

And the big question for David has been whether or not he will join the Philistines at this assembly.

But the big question for Saul is whether or not Israel has a chance in the fight. V.5

“When Saul saw the Philistine army, he was afraid; terror filled his heart. He inquired of the LORD, but the LORD did not answer him by dreams or Urim or prophets.”

Why not?

It seems like a good thing that Saul would inquire of the LORD, right?

Why wouldn’t God answer with a personal dream or the Urim (the official way of getting an answer through the priest) or through a prophet?

The answer is:

#1. SAUL HAD TURNED AWAY FROM THE LORD.

So many times God had spoken to Saul, and Saul had not listened.

Saul was obedient to what he did know.

God wasn’t about to tell him more.

The Urim was connected with the priests.

How many priests are left in Israel?

We don’t know exactly, but after the massacre at Nob, there aren’t many left.

And the one who was most qualified to use the Urim, Abiathar, has defected and joined David.

No wonder Saul doesn’t get an answer.

And how about the prophets? What did Saul do when the prophet Samuel had given him instructions?  He disobeyed them.

That’s why the kingdom was being torn from his hand.

And here, Saul isn’t looking to repent. He’s looking for some way out of his predicament.

Where do you turn when you’re in a crisis?

Saul had turned away from the LORD. Even in inquiring of Him, he’s turning to the LORD, he’s just hoping to get some battle plan out of Him. He’s not repentant, he’s just desperate.

Where do you turn when you’re desperate?

Saul turned to magic. V.7

“Saul then said to his attendants, ‘Find me a woman who is a medium, so I may go and inquire of her.’ ‘There is one in Endor,’ they said.”

Interesting that they know, isn't it?  This is supposed to be illegal.

The word translated “medium” stands for a person who “claimed the ability to contact the dead, either serving as intermediaries through whom the dead would speak or rousing the dead to speak for themselves” (Bergen, pg. 265).

This goes by other names like “necromancer” or “spiritist.”

And it’s very, very dangerous.

And it’s very, very wrong.

Saul knew better.

This is how low Saul has sunk.

Where do you turn when you are desperate?

So many people today in the world turn to things like spiritism. Channeling, crystals, horoscopes, psychics, Wicca, ghosts, astrology, seances, mediums.

You name it. It’s incredibly popular.

Saul had turned away from the Lord and had turned to what has traditionally been called “The Witch of Endor.”

I almost titled this message “The Wicked Witch of Endor.”

But we aren’t to think of a black tipped hat and a green face and a broomstick.

This is not something funny. This is dealing with the dead.

It’s thinking that someone might have the power to contact those who have died and, assuming that they know things we don’t, getting information from them.

It’s dangerous and it’s wrong. It is forbidden. But Saul again turns away from the LORD and slinks away to meet this woman at night.  V.8

“So Saul disguised himself, putting on other clothes, and at night he and two men went to the woman. ‘Consult a spirit for me,’ he said, ‘and bring up for me the one I name.’ But the woman said to him, ‘Surely you know what Saul has done. He has cut off the mediums and spiritists from the land. Why have you set a trap for my life to bring about my death?’”

She thinks it’s a sting operation. The Israelite Vice Squad is working on busting mediums. It’s a set-up. Saul has outlawed this! V.10

“Saul swore to her by the LORD, ‘As surely as the LORD lives, you will not be punished for this.’”

That is one sad sentence. The anointed king promises in the name of the LORD that this woman will not receive the punishment that the LORD requires for this sin.

That’s blasphemy. But she believes him. V.11

“Then the woman asked, ‘Whom shall I bring up for you?’ ‘Bring up Samuel,’ he said. When the woman saw Samuel, she cried out at the top of her voice and said to Saul, ‘Why have you deceived me? You are Saul!’”

What just happened?

Samuel actually appeared!

The way it reads to me, she didn’t expect it to work! At least not that good.

She might have been a fake, and all of her spiritism is nothing more than smoke and mirrors.

Or she might have some demonically-fueled power, but she’s never seen anything like this.

All of a sudden, as Samuel appears (comes up, whatever that means), she realizes that she’s dealing here with King Saul, the very one has outlawed spiritism.

“Why have you deceived me? You are Saul!”

Now, notice. The Bible is very careful not to explain how she did what she did, because it does not want us to try it at home.

The Bible does not forbid magic because it doesn’t work. It forbids magic because it is evil and wicked. It is turning away from the Lord.

There are dark forces at loose in the world and some of them are powerful. They are dangerous for our souls. We are not to turn to them.

Of course, God can do whatever He wants to do.

And it seems to me that God uses this moment as an exception to His general rule of breaking communication through from the dead to the living.

He loves to tell a rip-roaring story. Who would have ever guessed that old Samuel would make another appearance in this book? V.13

“The king said to her, ‘Don't be afraid. What do you see?’ The woman said, ‘I see a spirit coming up out of the ground.’

‘What does he look like?’ he asked. ‘An old man wearing a robe is coming up,’ she said.

Then Saul knew it was Samuel, and he bowed down and prostrated himself with his face to the ground.”

What does old Samuel have to say?

Samuel who heard the voice of the LORD as a young child and said, “Speak, LORD, for your servant is listening.”

What does Samuel have to say to Saul who never listened?  V.15

“Samuel said to Saul, ‘Why have you disturbed me by bringing me up?’ ‘I am in great distress,’ Saul said. ‘The Philistines are fighting against me, and God has turned away from me. He no longer answers me, either by prophets or by dreams. So I have called on you to tell me what to do.’”

Please tell me what to do.

I don’t know what to do.

The Philistines are so many and so powerful.  I need a plan.

And God won’t talk to me any more.

God has turned away.

Saul had turned away from the Lord so,

#2. THE LORD TURNED AWAY FROM SAUL.

Again, Saul wasn’t looking to repent. Saul was looking for a get-out-of-jail-free-card.

He’s desperate and looking for any kind of help that he can get.

Even from a dead guy.

But this dead guy has no plan for him, only bad news. V.16

“Samuel said, ‘Why do you consult me, now that the LORD has turned away from you and become your enemy?  The LORD has done what he predicted through me. The LORD has torn the kingdom out of your hands and given it to one of your neighbors–to David.

Because you did not obey the LORD or carry out his fierce wrath against the Amalekites, the LORD has done this to you today.

The LORD will hand over both Israel and you to the Philistines, and tomorrow you and your sons will be with me. The LORD will also hand over the army of Israel to the Philistines.’”

There’s that phrase again (v.16), “The LORD has turned away from you” and even worse, “become your enemy.”

There is nothing more scary than that.

To have God as your enemy is unthinkably terrible.

Nothing scarier, nothing worse.

God had stopped speaking to Saul and was saying in essence, “I have nothing to say to you.”

And now He’s sent one more message, “I have turned away from you. You are my enemy. Tomorrow you die, and your kingdom will lose to the Philistines.”

That’s chilling.

It’s dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. (Hebrews 10:31)

That sure puts David’s plight into perspective, doesn’t it?

He’s been chased but not caught. But the LORD has promised good to him. His word, David’s hope secures. He will his shield and portion be as long as life endures.

But not Saul. Saul has no shield. No portion. No word. No hope secured.

God will keep his promises–his threats–to Saul.

Why? V.18

“Because you did not obey the LORD ... the LORD has done this to you today.”

1 Chronicles 10:13 says it this way:

“Saul died because he was unfaithful to the LORD; he did not keep the word of the LORD and even consulted a medium for guidance...”

That puts David’s troubles in perspective.

Does it put your troubles into perspective, too?

If you are a follower of Christ, you’re a David, not a Saul.

So, however bad you have it, however painful life is right now, you’re not where Saul was–and that’s worth rejoicing!

Because there’s nothing worse than having God as your enemy.

The LORD turned away from Saul. V.20

“Immediately Saul fell full length on the ground, filled with fear because of Samuel's words. His strength was gone, for he had eaten nothing all that day and night.

When the woman came to Saul and saw that he was greatly shaken, she said, ‘Look, your maidservant has obeyed you. I took my life in my hands and did what you told me to do.  Now please listen to your servant and let me give you some food so you may eat and have the strength to go on your way.’

He refused and said, ‘I will not eat.’ But his men joined the woman in urging him, and he listened to them. He got up from the ground and sat on the couch.

The woman had a fattened calf at the house, which she butchered at once. She took some flour, kneaded it and baked bread without yeast. Then she set it before Saul and his men, and they ate. That same night they got up and left.”

Saul had one more feast fit for a king and then headed out into the night and to his fate.

And it’s another cliffhanger.

We still don’t know if David will be in the army facing Saul or killed by Achish for disobeying.

And we don’t know exactly what will happen in tomorrow’s battle.

But we do know that Saul has turned away from the LORD and the LORD has turned away from him.

And it’s the scariest thing in the world.

What should be our response to this?

What is the application?

Three quick thoughts:

- TURN TO THE LORD WHILE YOU STILL CAN.

There may come a time when you can’t repent.

Esau was like that. He got to the point where there was no turning back.

But don’t let yourself get there.

Turn while you still can.

If you are running away from the LORD. I know you’re at church today, but in your heart, you may be running the opposite direction...if you’re running away from the LORD, stop and re-pent. Turn to the LORD while you still can.

He is calling you to come home.

You don’t want God as your enemy.

And He doesn’t have to be. Jesus died so that you don’t have to have God against you any more.

- TRUST IN THE ONE WHO WAS ABANDONED FOR YOU.

What did Jesus say when He was hanging on the cross?

“‘Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?’– which means, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’” (Matthew 27:46).

God, in essence, turned away, not just from Saul, but from Jesus. And for that time when He was on the Cross, He was experiencing the wrath of God as if God the Father was His enemy.

Because He went through that you and I don’t have to.

Trust in the One who was abandoned for you.

GLORY IN THE FACT THAT IN CHRIST GOD IS NOT YOUR ENEMY.

Verse 16 is so scary, “Why do you consult me, now that the LORD has turned away from you and become your enemy?”

If that doesn’t scare someone, then nothing will.

But the opposite is true for all believers in Christ.

Listen to Colossians 1:21-23.

“Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ's physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation–if you continue in your faith, established and firm, not moved from the hope held out in the gospel.”

The gospel changes our status from enemy to beloved.

And we should glory in it.

And it’s the gospel is powerful enough to do it for any who will repent.

When Heather and I were in college, we were friends with a former witch.

Her name was Rosa.

When Rosa was a teenager, she was wrapped up in black magic.  In fact, she was a witch.  She loved the power that she felt she had because she knew “spells” which would curse those who had hurt her.

But one Summer she ended up at a Christian camp working in housecleaning. And the director of the camp noticed that she dressed all in black and had hate written all over her face.  And the director showed her love and led her to Jesus.

And Jesus changed her life. Rosa went home and cleaned out her room.  Everything in the room had to go.  Posters, music, books of spells, horror movies on video, nearly everything in her room except her bed.  And she carted it out behind her house and burned it all.

And when we knew her, she was the sweetest young lady we ever knew.

She had left all that behind and was no longer at enmity with God.

She gloried in the fact that God was not her enemy.

That she had experienced amazing grace and that it changed everything.

If you belong to Jesus, it’s true for you, too.

“Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ's physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation...”

Glory in it!

***
19. Turning Away

Saturday, February 08, 2014

Thursday, February 06, 2014

Allison Bies on "Resisting Gossip"

Allison Bies is an avid reader who writes book reviews for her church's website: Arlington Countryside Church in the Chicagoland area.

This week, Allison posted an encouraging review of Resisting Gossip:
I started reading with the mindset of, “I don’t really struggle too much with gossip.  I guess I gossip from time to time but not enough to do deep damage.  Perhaps I will pick up a few tips on how to be less critical with my words.”  Within a few pages, my attitude changed to understand how prevalent gossip actually is in my life.  ...  My thinking transformed to, “Maybe I should wear duct tape over my mouth 24/7.”  Thankfully, believers should seek a balance between silence and excessively careless words.  Always focused on the gospel, Mitchell discusses why Christians should seek to eliminate gossip and use words in a positive and God-honoring way.
She lists a number of takeaways from reading it and concludes with this heartening paragraph:
I feel encouraged that Christians can make a difference in the world by resisting gossip.  Our words are powerful, and God wants to use us in the lives of people with whom we interact.  Since reading this book, I have been more aware of what I say, and I pray that by God’s enabling, I would be wise, selective, and affirming with my words in 2014.
Amen. Thanks, Allison, for your review!

Read the whole thing.

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Win a Copy of "Resisting Gossip" by Subscribing at LifeNotes Cafe

The first 10 people to subscribe to any of the LifeNotes broadcast emails will win a free copy of Resisting Gossip!

Click here for all of the details.

Thanks to CLC Publications and LifeNotes for providing this giveaway!

Nick Roen on Homosexuality

Nick Roen is a Master of Divinity student at Bethlehem College & Seminary in Minneapolis and a regular contributor to the DesiringGod blog.

I think that the articles he is writing about homosexuality are some of the finest resources on the internet.  Roen writes out of his own experience of same-sex attraction and his understanding of gospel-centered sanctification and change. I highly recommend these articles for clear thinking, theological precision, and wise love:

An Alternative Script for Same-Sex Attraction

Is It Sin to Experience Same-Sex Attraction?

Same-Sex Attraction and the Wait for Change

Tuesday, February 04, 2014

New Feature: Recommended Resources

I'm starting a new "tag" for this blog: "Recommended Resources."

This tag will be for both books that I highly recommend as well as papers, documents, and websites that I think are truly helpful.

I'm always trying to point people to the best stuff out there, and I hope that adding this tag will give readers a one-click solution to finding them quickly here at Hot Orthodoxy.

Let me know if it helps you.

Sunday, February 02, 2014

[Matt's Messages] "He's Still There"

“He’s Still There”
A Heart for the Heart of God: The Message of 1 Samuel
February 2, 2014 :: 1 Samuel 27:1-28:2

In our current sermon series, entitled, “A Heart for the Heart of God,” we’ve been following the anointed but not yet king David as he’s been chased around Israel by King Saul.

David has been chased but not caught now for 8 long chapters.

And he’s had a few very close calls.

One commentator I read this week said, “It’s the stuff that makes great movies but takes its toll on real people.”

And David was a real person.

This kind of living must have been exhausting.

Especially now that his family has grown. David’s got two wives and probably some kids and 600 fighting men[!], many of whom also have families with them. I’m sure that David was feeling the heavy burden of this responsibility.

And he was still on the run.

Even though Saul has said that he would stop chasing David, David didn’t believe it for a minute.

So in this chapter, David decides to go live with ... catch this... with the Philistines.

I know. It’s crazy!

The Philistines are his enemies. He killed the biggest Philistine there ever was. And at least hundreds more!

And if you remember, he already tried this strategy before, back in chapter 21. And he got out of that by pretending that he was bonkers.

But here he goes again.

And this time, it’s a little different.

This time, he’s not pretending to be crazy. He’s pretending to be rebellious and mercenary.

David brings a 600 man mercenary army to King Achish, and this time, Acish salivates at the idea.

In chapter 27, David becomes kind of a like a double agent.

If the last few weeks have been like an action movie, this chapter is a bit more like a spy thriller.

David convinces his enemy that he’s a turncoat who can now be trusted to fight for his old enemies.

But we know that he’s not.

So, it’s like he’s a secret agent, a double agent for the Israel.

Now, I don’t know what you think about that concept. I’m not sure what I think about that concept.

I read and re-read this chapter so many times this week.

And I read and re-read all of my commentaries on it, too.

And they don’t agree on whether or not David’s actions here are right or wrong.

The narrator doesn’t give us much to go on. The narrator reports what David does but not whether or not it was a good thing.

I’ll tell you right now that it seems to be successful, at least in the short-run.

But we’ve learned that success is not the best indicator of righteousness.

Some things work (at least in the short-run) but are not good.

So, what do you do with that?

I think it’s interesting that God is not mentioned in this chapter.

God is not named. He’s not talked to or about.

But...and here’s the title for today’s message.

“He’s Still There”

Even when God is not mentioned, not named, and seemingly not involved in the story, He’s still there.

I realized this week that I might not be able to say with full certainty whether or not David’s actions were good or bad, but I can say that God’s are fully good, and that His fingerprints were all over David’s story.

The chapter begins with David talking to himself. V.1

“But David thought to himself, ‘One of these days I will be destroyed by the hand of Saul. The best thing I can do is to escape to the land of the Philistines. Then Saul will give up searching for me anywhere in Israel, and I will slip out of his hand.’”

Now, I know one thing that David got wrong in this chapter.

He tells himself in verse 1 that “one of these days” Saul was going to destroy him.

Is that true?

Would that be consistent with what David has been told by God?

I don’t think so.

I think that when Samuel anointed David that God was promising that one day he would be king.

I think that Samuel has reminded him of that.
That Jonathan has said the same thing.
That Abigail has said the exact same thing.
That Saul himself has said the exact same thing.

But David, at this point in his difficult life, isn’t thinking about that.

He’s thinking about how hard it is to live on the run.

He’s thinking about how difficult it is to be chased and one day, he’s sure, caught.

So, he comes up with an alternative plan.

Now, I’m not sure if the plan is good or not, but David’s thinking here was faulty. His motivation is faulty.

Of course, it’s easy to be a Monday morning quarterback!

Tomorrow, we’ll know everything that the coaches and the players did wrong in tonight’s Superbowl. We’ll have perfect perspectives in hindsight.

And it’s much easier for us to judge David than it was to be David in that situation.

You and I wouldn’t have done any better, but I do think that we can learn from this that we need to return again and again to the promises of God.

We have to remind ourselves and preach to ourselves the truth of what God has said that He will do.
David “thought to himself.”  And we’re thinking to ourselves all the time.

The question is whether or not we’re thinking the truth to ourselves or believing lies.

David thinks that the territories controlled by Saul have gotten too hot for him, and he’s better off to escape to the land of Philistines. If he does, then Saul will call off the dogs. V.2

“So David and the six hundred men with him left and went over to Achish son of Maoch king of Gath. David and his men settled in Gath with Achish. Each man had his family with him, and David had his two wives: Ahinoam of Jezreel and Abigail of Carmel, the widow of Nabal. When Saul was told that David had fled to Gath, he no longer searched for him.”

So, it worked!

David and his men are settled. That hasn’t happened in a very long time.

I’ll bet David even took a nap.

Saul stopped chasing him.

Of course, now he has to live with Achish.  V.5

“Then David said to Achish, ‘If I have found favor in your eyes, let a place be assigned to me in one of the country towns, that I may live there. Why should your servant live in the royal city with you?’ So on that day Achish gave him Ziklag, and it has belonged to the kings of Judah ever since.”

David thinks that Achish would probably not like to have him and his men so close by all of the time. And David certainly doesn’t want to live so close to the uncircumcised pagans himself. It wouldn’t fit with his plans.

So he suggests that David’s army be settled in a border community named Ziklag.  Close enough to be called upon when needed, but far enough away so as to not get on each other’s nerves.

Now, what I want to point out is God’s fingerprint on this.

He’s Still There.

He may not be mentioned by name, but He’s still there in the story. Look at verse 6 again.

“So on that day Achish gave him Ziklag, and it has belonged to the kings of Judah ever since.”

Ever since.  This story is going to change, eventually the Philistines will be defeated once and for all.

But the land of Ziklag will continue to belong to the kings of Judah.

Who was supposed to own the town of Ziklag?

Anybody know?

If you have an iPad or Smartphone with you and call up Ziklag on the Bible App search bar, it will come up in Joshua 15 and Joshua 19 before it comes up in 1 Samuel 27.

And in both of those chapters, the town of Ziklag is listed as being given to the tribe of Judah and more accurately Simeon whose land was located within the land allocated to Judah.

This was originally Israelite territory, but it had fallen into Philistine hands.

Guess whose hands it’s back in now?

The young lion of the tribe of Judah, named David.

Now, was that because David was so shrewd?

God used David’s shrewdness, sure.

But we know that God was up to something here.

Even if He’s not mentioned by name, He’s still there.

#1. BUILDING HIS KINGDOM.

Keeping His promises and building His kingdom.

I don’t know about you, but I need to be reminded of that over and over again.

God is at work building His kingdom, even when He isn’t mentioned and doesn’t get the credit.

Even when it doesn’t seem like God is around.

This afternoon at Windy Hill Nursing Home, I’m planning to preach to the residents on God’s presence even when it doesn’t feel like it.

God is here.

And He’s not just present, He’s active. He’s building His kingdom.

Nowadays, His kingdom isn’t so much about land as it was in the Old Testament, but about people.  God is building His kingdom in the lives of people.

One person at a time.

I need to be reminded of that when I see people walk away from the Lord.

One of the hardest parts of being a pastor is loving and continuing to pray for and care about and even try to shepherd folks who are seemingly not interested in following the Lord in faith and obedience.

I need to be reminded that God is still there, and He’s still at work building His kingdom.

And I’ve decided today to call that the “Ziklag principle.” Pretty catchy, huh?

If I’m ever moping around and acting like God has vacated His throne, you have permission to say to me, “Don’t forget Ziklag.”

V.6 “So on that day Achish gave him Ziklag, and it has belonged to the kings of Judah ever since.”

He’s still there. V.7

“David lived in Philistine territory a year and four months. Now David and his men went up and raided the Geshurites, the Girzites and the Amalekites. (From ancient times these peoples had lived in the land extending to Shur and Egypt.)

Whenever David attacked an area, he did not leave a man or woman alive, but took sheep and cattle, donkeys and camels, and clothes. Then he returned to Achish.

When Achish asked, ‘Where did you go raiding today?’ David would say, ‘Against the Negev of Judah’ or ‘Against the Negev of Jerahmeel’ or ‘Against the Negev of the Kenites.’

He did not leave a man or woman alive to be brought to Gath, for he thought, ‘They might inform on us and say, 'This is what David did.'’ And such was his practice as long as he lived in Philistine territory.”

Do you see what I mean about being a double agent?

David goes on a mission, he attacks and kills everybody in a town. The town is full of Geshurites, Girzites, and Amalekites.

When he gets home, he has bring some plunder and report in to the evil boss, and David would say that he was in regions populated by Israelites.

This is a dangerous game that he’s playing.

That’s what the movie trailer would say, “He’s playing a dangerous game.”

Now, I’m not sure what you think about his actions here.

This commentator, whom I resonate with, says that David is in the wrong here because he’s lying and he’s killing more people than necessary.

He says, “I have argued earlier that the text seems to reflect a certain sympathy and understanding for David. Yet the writer does not hide how calculating and ruthless David was while a ‘Philistine.’ David the raider is one thing, David the butcher is another. In 27:9, 11, David seems to be practicing overkill even bin the customs of his time.” (Dale Ralph Davis, pg. 286).

This commentator on the other hand, whom I also respect, disagrees and argues that deception is biblically justifiable in warfare. He writes, “We may be tempted to label the events of this paragraph as ‘disreputable’ and to deplore David’s use of deception in his dealings with Achish. But the text is not included as a means of critiquing David’s actions, no matter how questionable those actions seem to us today. Rather, in typical ancient Near Eastern fashion, the text celebrates the shrewdness of our protagonist and his ability to ingratiate himself to both his own people and to the Philistine overlord....the text reports David’s actions, and by implication, approves of his methods” (Bill Arnold, pg. 363-364).

Now, I lean towards this one (Davis), but I quote both to show you that when God’s perspective is not clearly and obviously stated, it’s sometimes hard to read history.

Both commentators have a point.

I’m not 100% sure if David was shrewdly wise or shrewdly unwise here.

But I am pretty sure that I see God’s fingerprints.

Even though He’s not directly mentioned, He’s Still There:

#2. FINISHING HIS BUSINESS.

Who were these Geshurites, Girzites, and Amalekites?

They were some of the Canaanites whom God had told Israel to drive completely out of the Promised Land.

Do you remember last year when we studied the book of Judges? The first message was called “Unfinished Business.”

Israel’s downward spiral began because they did not finish what the Lord had told them to do with people like the Geshurites, the Girzites, and the Amalekites.

These people had gone too far too long and were to experience the righteous judgment of God.

But Israel had not completed their mission and it had dogged them to this day.

In chapter 15 of this book, King Saul had a chance to make things right by destroying the Amalekites, but he, too, failed to obey.

One thing that God is doing here in verse 8 is finishing His unfinished business.

Just because they had escaped for a time doesn’t mean that they were off the hook.

God’s justice is perfect. He does not forget. And He does not fail.

Last week, we were reminded to do the right thing because we can trust God’s justice.

Well, here, I think, is an example of that justice at work.

I can think of two reasons why you and I might need that reminder this morning.

One is that we might be tempted to think that we can get away with something.

But the Bible says, “Be sure your sins will find you out.” Nothing is hidden from God.

And if it isn’t forgiven, then it’s unforgiven and judgment awaits.

So, turn from your sin and trust in the Savior. Don’t think you can harbor hidden sin and go unpunished forever.

Jesus died for your sins, trust in His provision for you.

The second reason why we might need to be reminded that God is always there finishing His business is that it might feel like God’s justice has miscarried.

It seems like somebody is getting away with murder!

...But they’re not.

God is working all things to His glory including the judgment of the wicked.

It may come slower than we would like, but His justice is perfect and couldn’t be improved upon in the slightest.

Don’t worry. God always gets His man (or His woman).

He’s Still There finishing His business.

And number three. He’s Still There:

#3. WRITING STRAIGHT WITH CROOKED LINES.

That’s an old phrase that means that God uses even the bad things that imperfect people do to achieve His good purposes.

Even if David is making mistakes here, God is going to use it all to achieve His good and perfect plan.

David’s plan has completely fooled Achish, but it’s about to backfire. V.12

“Achish trusted David and said to himself, ‘He has become so odious to his people, the Israelites, that he will be my servant forever.’ [Chapter 28] In those days the Philistines gathered their forces to fight against Israel. Achish said to David, ‘You must understand that you and your men will accompany me in the army.’

David said, ‘Then you will see for yourself what your servant can do.’ Achish replied, ‘Very well, I will make you my bodyguard for life.’”

As Scooby Doo would say, “Ruh roh!”

Achish is so taken in by David’s deception, that he plans for David to fight right alongside him against Saul and his army.

And we know that David won’t raise his hand against the Lord’s anointed.

But he can’t say that to Achish, not at Gath!

So he cleverly says, “You’ll see for yourself what your servant can do.”

And Achish thinks that means, “I’m in.”  So he says, literally, “I will make you the keeper of my head.”

What’s going to happen?

Tune in next time!

The author of 1 Samuel pulls a cliffhanger on us.

He doesn’t tell us!

But even if you don’t know the particulars, you know that God has good plans for David. He’s said so.

And even if God is not mentioned here in chapter 27 by name, you know that He’s still there.

And He’s up to something good.

Even with something bad.

God can write straight with a crooked pencil.

God will use crooked Achish. And God will use even crooked David to accomplish His good plan.

Remember when Joseph’s brothers sold him into slavery?

Was that straight or crooked?

It was crooked.

But what did Joseph say many years later when his brothers were afraid that he would retaliate?

He said, “What you intended for evil, God intended for good.”

God used even your evil to accomplish His good plan.  It’s no excuse for being evil or doing evil, but it’s a great reason to praise God!

Dale Ralph Davis says this about our story for today, “The Bible does not claim that God’s servants are dipped in Clorox so they will be infallibly sin-free and attractive to you. The living God does not have clean material to work with...remeber it’s only sinful (i.e. sin-full) clay the Potter works with. We should not criticize the Potter because of the clay but rather marvel that he stoops to work with such stuff” (Dale Ralph Davis, pg. 287).

Our hope is not in a sinless David, but in a God Who writes straight with crooked lines.

A God Who finishes what He starts.

A God Who keeps on building His kingdom, no matter what.

A God Who even when He is not mentioned or named is still there.

***

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."
08. From Here On
09. Who Knows?
10. How to Grieve the Lord
11. The Lord Looks at the Heart
12. The Battle Is the Lord's
13. May the LORD Be With You
14. The Fugitive
15. Cutting Corners
16. A Tale of Two Fools