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Posts Tagged ‘Religion’

1 Samuel 4:3 And when the people had come into the camp, the elders of Israel said, “Why has the LORD defeated us today before the Philistines? Let us bring the ark of the covenant of the LORD from Shiloh to us, that when it comes among us it may save us from the hand of our enemies.”

1 Samuel 4:5-8 And when the ark of the covenant of the LORD came into the camp, all Israel shouted so loudly that the earth shook. Now when the Philistines heard the noise of the shout, they said, “What does the sound of this great shout in the camp of the Hebrews mean?” Then they understood that the ark of the LORD had come into the camp. So the Philistines were afraid, for they said, “God has come into the camp!” And they said, “Woe to us! For such a thing has never happened before. Woe to us! Who will deliver us from the hand of these mighty gods? These are the gods who struck the Egyptians with all the plagues in the wilderness.

Israel apparently saw no need to consult God regarding their battle plans prior to engaging the enemy. However when their efforts failed they (the elders of Israel) blamed the Lord and then went to get the ark to ensure their future victory – something He had not told them to do. They didn’t want His guidance, they just wanted His power at work in the course they had determined to pursue. It’s almost as though the ark was some magical object, as though they didn’t recognize the awesome presence associated with it. There seemed to be no real reverence for the holiness of God…”let us bring the ark of the covenant of the Lord from Shiloh to us”….they wouldn’t go to Him for guidance but wanted Him to come to them for victory.

What a shout they gave as the ark came into the camp, but was it merely the shout of those who felt certain that their victory was now assured and not a shout of praise to the Lord God? How tragic that He actually seems to be more reverenced by the heathen than His own people.

God is not the means to our end. He is not some useful object to help us get what we want in life (even the religious things we want in life). He is Almighty God and He will not stoop to serve the agendas of men. If you are found to be using God for your own selfish gain, don’t be surprised to find yourself defeated before your enemy.

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The Philistines are first mentioned in the book of Genesis in connection with Abraham, but we don’t really see any conflict with them until Isaac had to re-dig the wells that Abraham dug because the Philistines had stopped up the wells by filling them with earth. The Philistines made themselves an enemy to the son of promise and remained at enmity with Israel from that time forward.

Saul was king of Israel when Goliath of Gath, a Philistine, issued this challenge:

1 Samuel 17:10 And the Philistine said, “I defy the armies of Israel this day; give me a man, that we may fight together.”

The entire Israelite army was dismayed and greatly afraid for Goliath was a giant (estimated to be at least 9 feet and possibly over 11 feet tall). Day after day, for forty days, Goliath issued his challenge and it remained unaccepted. This was more than just the challenge of one man to another man, but it was the challenge of one people to another. The freedom of an entire people rested on the outcome of this battle. On one of these days David was present. I love his response to the words of Goliath…..” who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God?”

And so, after being approved by King Saul to accept the challenge, David gathered his weapons for battle….

1 Samuel 17:40 Then he took his staff in his hand; and he chose for himself five smooth stones from the brook, and put them in a shepherd’s bag, in a pouch which he had, and his sling was in his hand. And he drew near to the Philistine.

Nothing fancy or elaborate here. Nothing seemingly very powerful. He is so unimpressive that Goliath disdained him because he was only a youth (17:42). He was just a boy. We are familiar with the story from here – David’s mighty victory and the beginning of his fame. But as amazing as his victory was, there was always another battle to fight and another enemy to conquer.

The enemy demanded a man. Saul sent a boy. The victory was incomplete.

The enemy (Satan) is still demanding a man. For multiplied thousands of year, he has been demanding every man. And he has won so often because there was no champion to defeat him, and thus he makes slaves of men. Slaves to sin….slaves to depravity…slaves to lawlessness….slaves to self-will.

But heaven watched on…..a plan already formulated. A body was prepared for THE MAN who would defeat this powerful enemy for all time. No other battle would be necessary.   The enemy raged…”give me a man”. And God did just that.

John 19:5 Then Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. And Pilate said to them, “Behold the Man!”

And just as David, he chose no elaborate battle gear or wartime weapons. He defeated the enemy with a cross.

Colossians 2:13-15 And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses, having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. Having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it.

The uncontested champion of time and eternity – Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world. Behold the Man.

 

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Acts 19:24-27. For a certain man named Demetrius, a silversmith, who made silver shrines of Diana, brought no small profit to the craftsmen.  He called them together with the workers of similar occupation, and said: “Men, you know that we have our prosperity by this trade.  Moreover you see and hear that not only at Ephesus, but throughout almost all Asia, this Paul has persuaded and turned away many people, saying that they are not gods which are made with hands.  So not only is this trade of ours in danger of falling into disrepute, but also the temple of the great goddess Diana may be despised and her magnificence destroyed, whom all Asia and the world worship.”

I get the sense that Demetrius was not so much a religious man as a greedy man, as he makes several appeals to the financial benefit that Diana worship brings to men of the city of Ephesus.  Surely such a businessman had the intelligence to realize that Paul was correct…a man cannot make a god with his hands. However that was not a profitable stance for him to take and not one that he would lend any credence to. So he appeals to the men on the basis of what he worships (money), and then on the basis of the dangers to their religious culture and warned that Diana’s magnificence would be destroyed by what Paul was teaching.  This is the “greatness” of a man made God- it is ever subject to being demolished and dismantled by truth. Whatever magnificence Diana had was a magnificence imputed by men and could thus be taken away by men. But the magnificence of the true God cannot be touched or diminished.  No man gave it to Him and no man can take it from Him.  The magnificence of Jesus was revealed in greater glory and power after they attempted to destroy Him by crucifixion. Though He is rejected by men still, His magnificence is untouched.  He remains as glorious as He has always been in eternity past and will be in eternity future.  He doesn’t need us to protect His splendor….only to reveal it. Let the world in its vanity scoff and mock if they will.  He loses nothing by their disapproval and disdain. His remains an untouchable magnificence.

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Psalm 34:19 Many are the afflictions of the righteous, But the LORD delivers him out of them all.

What a beautiful promise of deliverance this is for the child of God….one that many have clung to in the dark seasons of life. Deliverance.  An end to the trial. This is often our sole focus in time of trouble, trial and affliction….the end of it.  But what about the fruit of it?  What about the work of God through it?  That same verse tells us that afflictions WILL come. Many afflictions. It is an unavoidable part of life.  Can we believe there is purpose in it?

Acts 16 – Paul had been in Philippi for many days. He had been to Lydia’s house and to the river, but what about this jailer?  How would he hear the gospel?  The wisdom of God is to put His ministers in jail. Paul’s prison was for this man’s soul.

Paul probably didn’t know this when he was beaten and put in the stocks, but He trusted God enough to leave His suffering to God’s sovereign purpose. How else would he be able to worship in such a situation?

My suffering often benefits me when I allow myself to be instructed through it and I am grateful for the lessons I have learned and the experience with God through it. But maybe….just maybe…my suffering is for someone else.  How easy to bear is a prison that brings forth a soul.

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Song of Songs 1:5-6     I am dark, but lovely, O daughters of Jerusalem, Like the tents of Kedar, Like the curtains of Solomon. Do not look upon me, because I am dark, Because the sun has tanned me. My mother’s sons were angry with me; They made me the keeper of the vineyards, But my own vineyard I have not kept.

Dark but lovely…in a day that placed value on untanned skin, her darkness marked her as one lacking financial resources, which required her to live a life of labor. But notwithstanding her darkness, there was a beauty still remaining.

Every life contains the beauty of God’s image, but in us all it is marred by the darkness of sin. Some may appear darker than others because they have labored much for that taskmaster. But beneath it still is that image…though tarnished, it remains.

So let us not look upon others because they are dark…focused on the blackness of their sin. This is not who they are just as it was not who you truly were. We are to judge no one after the flesh. Look further, past the disfiguring effects of sin, and see….what lies just beneath the surface….tarnished but still faintly seen…the image of the Creator…waiting to be made beautiful again by the blood of Jesus.

At times in my own life I have seen the marring effects of sin so prominently that I have felt identified by it and lost sight of the beauty that remains. I am still His. I am still loved.

Like the coarse tents of Keder

Like the luxurious curtains of Solomon

Treasure in an earthen vessel

Dark, but lovely

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“Are you the church or do we seek another?” These were the words of Pastor Lee Shipp as he preached at New Beginning Fellowship yesterday morning, and they have been thundering in my heart ever since. Just as the life of Jesus manifested the Father, even so our lives should manifest Jesus Christ. “As He is, so are we in this world.” (1 John 4:17)

But are we? When the world looks at us, do they see the body of Christ, the representation of Jesus Christ, or are they left seeking another because they have seen much of us but little of Jesus? Oh how a world perishes for the lack of Jesus Christ revealed among His people!

Where is the crucified love of Jesus in our midst? Jesus said that He was given the power to lay down His life by the Father (John 10:18) and He has given this power to us…..the power to die to our selfishness and desire to please ourselves, that our lives might be poured out and spent for the Lord Jesus Christ. And how do we do that? By letting that love that’s been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit (Romans 5:5) pour out of our hearts by the power of that same Spirit. It’s a love that reaches out to restore the broken, comfort the hurting, give to the needy, love the unlovely, bring good news to the hopeless. It’s a love that may often be misunderstood and unappreciated. But it is THAT love which will identify us as followers of Jesus. (John 13:35)

If we have committed our lives to Jesus, and our lives are now to be given that the person and love of Jesus may be demonstrated through us then is there any risk, any sacrifice, any scorn too great to bear?

Where does love draw the line? At what point is the cost too great? Shall we love this far and no farther? Is our own comfort and safety the boundary of our love? Shall we love just up until the point of someone else’s displeasure or disapproval? I’m glad Jesus didn’t love us like that…but He loved us all the way to the cross. He didn’t draw the line at thorns and nails. There were no boundaries to His love…none imposed by Himself or by others. Lord help us to be bold enough to love like that….that those seeking Jesus may find Him in our midst.

 

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Last Friday as a young man was passing by on Third Street, I handed him a gospel tract and tried to start a conversation with him. He seemed eager to enjoy his evening and not very disposed to stop and talk until I mentioned the name of Jesus. He stopped in his tracks and told me that he was a backslider.  He had been raised in church all his life and had made a genuine profession of faith in Christ as a young man. He had been active in ministry and diligent in the spiritual disciplines. But he had a struggle that he couldn’t talk about with anyone….until it overtook him. Having been molested by a family member when he was a young boy, he found himself struggling with same sex attraction for years.   He prayed and sought freedom from these desires but eventually grew weary of the fight. He told me that all through those years he was active in evangelism and discipleship. In the midst of his own personal struggle he was always going after people for the kingdom….he said ”and I wondered when is somebody going to come after me”. All up in the middle of church and ministry, yet sinking into the seeming hopelessness of a besetting sin….battling alone and being overcome.   He wept, right out there in the middle of Baton Rouge’s party street….longing to be free….missing the Father’s house.

We prayed together and I trust that the Spirit of God will complete the work of restoration. Please pray for D. and so many, many like him who are slipping away from Christ in the midst of the house of God. Make no mistake….this world we live in is a battle zone. As the people of God, we must war with one another and for one another so that we can all say at the end….”I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” 2 Timothy 4:7

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