Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Who are you to fight the giant? 1 Samuel 17

Oh we have all heard the story of David and Goliath.   It is a favorite Bible story for many children even today.  It's the story of a little boy armed with faith in God, a sling shot and a smooth stone who went up against a mean 9 foot tall fighting giant.    The odds makers in Vegas wouldn't have given David a chance!

Actually no one really took him serious.  

Today instead of retelling the story that we all know I want to think about David's brothers.  You can find the entire story under the Scripture of the week on my blog.  The story comes from 1 Samuel 17 and I encourage you to reread and enjoy the story this week.

Today I want to think about David's brothers.

David's brothers were like every other Israelite man whose heart pounded in fear and cowardice.   They saw the giant... They looked at themselves... and then said,  "You got to be kidding there's no way I'm going to take on the giant no matter what the King offers me if I win." They were afraid.  They were cowards.   They were also probably ashamed.

On comes their younger brother David and you can almost hear them say,  "Now why is he here?!"

What is the little runt doing now?

Why is he asking all those people about the giant?

And why is he so concerned about what the king will do for the one who defeats the giant?

He's just a boy?

Yes... I think the presence of the boy caused the brothers great distress but I don't think they were worried about his health and well being.  Just listen to what David's older brother had to say.

Listen to verse 28 "When Eliab, David's oldest brother, heard him speaking with the men, he burned with anger at him and asked,  "what have you come down here?  And with whom did you leave those few sheep in the desert?  I know how conceited you are and how wicked your heart is; you came down only to watch the battle."

From his words we have to say that David was either a wicked brat of a younger brother or that something different was going on behind the scenes.

If you want my opinion which you may or may not... but since it is my blog you'll get it anyway, ha!;  My personal opening is they were embarrassed.   Embarrassed by the fool that David was making of himself and embarrassed to explain why they weren't brave enough to fight the giant themselves.   My guess is Eliab didn't rebuke him in public because he probably didn't want people to know David was his brother.  My guess is they were also worried that worried that David would go home and tell Dad about their disgrace and their cowardice.   Don't you just hate when your little brother does something like that.....  If you've had a little brother you understand. haha

Yes when your not doing what you know you should be doing you really don't want friends let alone your little brother hanging around.  I wonder if they were even glad when their "little" brother defeated the giant..   Think of the humiliation to have your little brother show you up and bail you out!    I don't think they were throwing their little brother up on top of their shoulders proudly proclaiming...  "This is my little brother!  Who killed the giant while we hid in our tents......."

Oh maybe if confronted Eliab might have claimed to be the one who taught David the fine art of using the sling shot! saying, "I taught him everything he knows"  but even if that was the case it is evident that David had the biggest heart of faith in God!

So what's the application of my blog for the day.... Perhaps you can give a note to your little brother and tell them how proud you are of them... That would be a good thing indeed!   But there something else I'm thinking about....

Today I've noticed that sometimes people become critical of others who are doing great things for the Lord.  Have you noticed that?  Sometimes small churches and small church pastor point out that the Large church down the corner does this and that wrong.. "They are just entertaining people not discipling them."  We mainline and evangelical protestants are also very quick to judge those who show "too much emotion" or those who heal others in Jesus name.

Today I find it shameful on the part of the body of Christ that we are jealous of one another and that we put down those we don't understand or agree with.  Don't we know that we are fighting the same enemy?

I think there is also a jealous between brothers that hurts the family of God as well.  You know it took a long time for James the brother of Jesus to come to faith in Jesus as his Lord.  Actually the fact of his faith and the fact that James was a respected leader of the church in Jerusalem is a great indicator that Jesus really was who he said he was.

Jealousy has no role in the church of Jesus Christ.  We are called to encourage one another to good works.  Thankfully David had faith to work for God even when no one supported him..... not even his brothers!

To ponder:  Is there anyone that I'm competing with?  Is there anyone who I'm jealous of in ministry?  Is there someone I should be more supportive of in ministry?  Pray for that person and maybe show your support by telling someone else how proud you are of their good work for the Lord.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Offering your best with Joy 1 Samuel 1:11

If you read the first chapter of 1 Samuel you will find Hannah weeping near the door posts of the Temple.  She's crying out to God and making a vow to God saying, "O Lord of hosts,  if only you will look on the misery of your servant, and remember me, and not forget your servant, but will give to your servant a male child, then I will set him before you as a nazirite until the day of his death." 1 Samuel 1:11 NRSV.   In these words we hear the heart of a humble servant pleading with he Lord.  Some however might say she was making a bargain with the Lord.  If you do this one thing for me.  I will do this for you.    Perhaps you've made such bargains with the Lord as well.    Some say things like, "Oh Lord if you save me from this crisis I will give my life to you as a servant of the Lord perhaps as a pastor."   Or people say,  "Oh Lord if you do this, I promise to never do that------  (fill in the blank) sin ever again.

Frankly some of these prayers are selfish by nature.  In addition if everyone upheld there end of the bargain our seminaries would be overflowing.    The Bible discourages us from making such vows or promises however Hannah's prayer was honored by God and she received a son just as she had prayed.  His name was Samuel who was one of the greatest of the prophets and perhaps the last judge to serve in Israel.

I think God listened to her cry because there was something special in her heart.  This is not to say that God, out of his amazing grace, doesn't give us things full well knowing that we can't or will not choose to fulfill our end of the bargain.  However for a moment lets consider her prayer and her faithful response to the blessing.

Hannah was obviously a Godly woman and she loved her husband and her God so much that she wanted to give birth to a child as a gift to the Lord.   In addition I'm sure she wanted the joy of bringing a child into the world and thus end her shame.  However,  her request wasn't purely selfish by any means.   How do I know this?   Because she freely gave her child, her gift, to the Lord just as she said.  After she had weaned the boy she brought him to Eli in the temple and after that moment she would only visit with him once a year.  This was indeed a great sacrifice to her.

But what we might find interesting is the timing of Hannah's song.   In the end of the first chapter and start of the second we are made aware that she is lifting up these wonderful joyous words of praise to God not at the birth of her child but at the moment that she was giving him up to the Lord.

I'm sure that she had a prayer and a song at the birth of the child as every mother has but it's amazing that it was at the moment she was giving away her son that she exclaimed.  "My heart rejoices in the Lord; in the Lord my horn is lifted high." 1 Samuel 2:1a   The horn was the symbol of strength.  

Most women would have wept bitterly to leave their child.  Perhaps some would offer another bargain to the Lord like..  "If you allow me to keep him I will be sure to raise him in a God fearing home and teach him every day."   This was not the response of Hannah.   She knew that from beginning to end that the gift she held in her hands was a gift of God and now she was offering the gift with gladness of heart.

To ponder:   What gifts has God given you?  Has God called you to share that gift?   Do you sacrificially offer that gift back to the Lord with Joy?   What about your financial resources is it your joy and pleasure to offer your gift to the Lord and the Lord's work?

Hannah showed great faith.  She made a vow and kept that vow long before she knew that the Lord would be faithful to give her other children as well.   God is faithful to us especially when we put the Lord first and offer our best with Joy!

May we offer our best offering with joy as we walk through the Word together.

Monday, July 22, 2013

It's on to the Histories!  By now you probably know that I love stories and the Old Testament history books are filled with great stories.  The books of the Old Testament Histories are included in the books of 1 Samuel through Esther.  They are filled with heroes and heroines but they also filled with disaster and devastation.  They are filled with the faithful but also the proud and sinful.  In the histories you find real people whose lives are changed when they trust fully in the Lord and gravely altered when they trust in foreign goods and compromise in their sin. 

 Frankly it's hard to find a man or a women who is without sin when you look at these books.  Like our great westerns we want our cowboys to wear white hats.  Unfortunately it seems that every white hat is stained with blood and mired in the mud.  Yet, through it all we get a picture of God.  Sometimes that view is challenging and we wonder,  "Can anyone stand under the judgment of God?"  Other times his grace abounds and God is revealed as one who's faithful to his people despite their sins.

Yes, I love the Old Testament history books!  I hope you'll sense that as I blog over the next several weeks but perhaps like you at times I'm challenged and disturbed especially by the blood shed and destruction.

Today I'm thankful that I can look back upon the history books through the lens of the New Testament.  Jesus is the fulfillment of the Law. Jesus is the one who takes the punishment that I deserve.  God's grace abounds through Jesus but don't be surprised if you'll find his amazing grace in the Old Testament as well.  So join me as we walk through the word.

Let's begin!

There are many wonderful hero's of the faith to be found in the first and second book of Samuel.  Samuel the prophet and judge was one such man!  But seeds of his greatness came from the heart of Hannah his mother.

Hannah was a woman of prayer and her prayers came from the burden and pain in her heart.  She was unable to conceive and bare a child to her husband Elkanah.   This was a sin of shame for women in those days because children were viewed as the blessing of the Lord.  To complicate things her husband  was married to another woman as well.  Her name was Peninnah and she did have children.   Peninnah also had a way of making sure Hannah knew all about it which didn't help matters for Hannah.   But Elkanah loved Hannah. 

At one point he said to her.  "Hannah, why are you weeping?  Why don't you eat?  Why are you downhearted?  Don't I mean more to you than ten sons?" 1Samuel 1:8.

Now I want to offer a note to husbands out there everywhere.  Don't say things like that to your wife.  It doesn't really help.   Now I know that Elkanah may not have meant it this way as most of us men don't mean everything we say.  Generally speaking men don't always think before they speak. ha!
But I wonder if all Hannah hear was this.....   "Honey I'm sorry you don't have a child but look on the bright side,  at least you have me!"    I'm sure that wasn't what Elkanah meant.  It was obvious the Elkanah deeply loved her as evidence to her kindness to her and you can read about that in the first chapter of 1 Samuel which I would highly recommend you do!

Hannah was in the temple one day praying to the Lord pleading with the Lord for his favor to overshadow her.  There she made a vow to the Lord saying, "O Lord Almighty, if you will only look upon your servant's misery and remember me, and not forget your servant but give her a son, then I will give him to the lord for all the days of his life, and no razor will ever be used on his head."           1 Samuel 1:11  

God was faithful to her and over time she proved to be faithful to God and to the child given to her as a gift.   As we read Hannah's song or Hannah's prayer in 1 Samuel 2,  we see just how over joyed she was.  These are beautiful words indeed!  They are words that might remind you of another later song offered by Mary the mother of Jesus many years later.

To Ponder:  Perhaps you could read those words as your own today.  I pray that the Lord has been your rock and deliverer.   I hope you can say along with Hannah that there is no one holy like the Lord; there is no one besides you; there is no Rock like our God.

I'll talk more about these words and the wonderful story of Hannah and Samuel in the week to come but today I encourage you to read 1 Samuel 2: 1-10.  Thank God that he is your strength and your provider.  Indeed God continues to guard the feet of his saints!  1Samuel 2:9a

Saturday, July 20, 2013

There is a Redeemer

There is so much that could be said about the book of Ruth.  I just finished preaching a four part sermon on the book a couple months ago so I'll try my best not to sermonize too much..  Maybe a little. 

Today I want to talk about Boaz the kinsman redeemer.  When Ruth and Naomi were in Bethlehem, while Naomi was determined to be bitter and resolved to die, Ruth was determined to live.   Ruth went out to glean in one of the locals field and by chance or by God's provision she came to a field owned by Boaz a close relative.  She followed behind the servants who gathered the barley and gleaned what was left behind.  When Boaz noticed her he did more than have pity on her... he was truly interested in her and determined to protect her.   Now we can't say that it was love at first sight.  I'll let the romantics who happen upon my blog to satisfy their imaginations if they wish.  Boaz out of his kindness even requested that his workers leave an extra measure of Barley behind and even to allow her to glean among the workers without sending her away.

When Ruth told Naomi of her good fortune Naomi was filled with hope again.  Eventually Naomi cooked up a plot where Ruth would make advances on the threshing floor by going to Boaz at night.   Boaz would know what to do.  He was an honorable man and would take Ruth as his wife if he was able.   Being that he was a close kin to Naomi he could take Ruth and redeem the land that was owned by Elimelech, Naomi's deceased husband.   To survive Naomi had planned to sell the property but a kinsman redeemer could buy the property and then give it back if you will to the owner in this case Naomi.  

 Boaz though deeply flattered and in love with Ruth had a problem.  Boaz knew that there was a closer kin who had the first right of redemption.  This fact and the fact that Ruth was much younger than he was the primary reason Boaz refrained from making the first advances himself.  However now that Ruth had approached him, he would settle the matter quickly.  At first the closest of kin took the right of redemption but refused once he realized that taking Ruth as his wife was a part of the deal as well.   Perhaps his present wife didn't like the idea?  but it probably also posed other financial burdens.... but you can read about that yourself.

Now the way was open for Boaz to redeem the land and to take Ruth as his wife.   A baby was soon on  the way and Naomi and Ruth would be safe and blessed for the rest of their lives.  It was a wonderful love story indeed and through that union Ruth's Name would join the most royal lineage. Her child would become the grandfather to King David and Ruth would eventually be included in the lineage of the most royal redeemer of all, Jesus Christ.

Boaz was what some might call a "type" of Christ.   We remember that Christ himself would redeem his people.  He would buy back our salvation through the gift of his blood which would pay the price and the punishment for our sins. 

Thanks be to God that we have a redeemer, Jesus Christ, who sees us in our times of despair.   He knows how helpless we are and though we like Ruth can only beg, Jesus offers us eternal life as a son or daughter of the king of kings!   No we are not received as servants or slaves.  We come as the bride of Christ bought by the blood of the lamb.  We are redeemed and all we have to do is approach Christ and humbly place ourselves in faith at the feet of Jesus.  

To ponder:   How blessed we are that Christ provides for us and protects us now and in the future.  We are his and there is nothing that can separate us from his love... Nothing.  Let us rejoice and walk as proud and thankful people.... brothers and sisters in Christ!

If you've not placed yourself at the feet of Christ to allow him to redeem your life I would invite you to pray with me and if you have join me as we rededicate our lives to Jesus.

Dear God I thank you for Christ who stands ready to receive me.  I thank you that he sees me in all of my sin yet for the sake of love calls me in and offers me forgiveness.  Lord right now I receive Jesus offer for my life.  I hand my life into his hands as my savior, redeemer and friend.   Forgive me of my sins.  Fill me with your Spirit and help me to walk with Jesus as my guild.  Thank you for accepting me as your child.   In Jesus name I pray,  Amen

If you prayed that prayer for the first time I encourage you strongly to find a church and talk with the pastor so he or she can celebrate with you and help you on the journey.  I would also be greatly honored if you would send me an email message at timothybrownpastor@yahoo.com

God's blessings to us all as we walk through the word together.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Faithfulness of Ruth

"Don't urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God." Ruth 1:16

Ruth was a young woman.  She had her life to look forward to but her husband died... But she still had her mother in law.  Not much consolation there because her mother in law Naomi was a widow herself!   Widows in that day did not have it very easy.   There were no Federal benefits and jobs for women where next to nothing.  As Naomi looked into her future she could only imagine the shame of begging on the streets of her hometown.   But Ruth was young and attractive she could probably find another husband in her home land of Moab but she was determined to stand by Naomi her mother in law who was heading out for good.   The distance from Moab to Bethlehem was so far that this was permanent and there were no phones to call home or busses available for a return trip.

Perhaps Naomi had the right idea to send her daughter in law back home where she could find a new husbands.  Naomi was surely not going to find a new husband and raise more sons for Ruth.  However, Ruth refused to leave the side of her mother in law.   Once again I point out that Naomi was Ruth's "mother in law" and Naomi was from the far away foreign country.   You might look at Ruth's decision as a very foolish death sentence.  If Ruth was going to die why not do it in her homeland where she might have a chance among her own people. 

This would make more sense, right?  But when Ruth left her father and mother to be joined with her husband, she also joined with her husbands family and their faith. To that she would remain..... faithful.

You might ask why?  Yes, her loyalty is commendable and it would be rewarded greatly but Ruth would have no idea of what was in the future.   Personally I believe that there was something compelling that Ruth saw in the faith of her husband and Naomi that inspired her and yes transformed her.   Ruth was a believer and her wonderful statement (see above) is evidence of her loyalty to Naomi but also her faith in the God of Israel.   Yes, Ruth could have stayed in Moab but to do so would have meant that she had to leave the God that she loved!  For her it would be better to die with Naomi and the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob than to live in Moab..... alone.   She had amazing faith and amazing love and she would be rewarded by the providence of God.  In addition her faith would save Naomi as well.  Just read the entire book and you will marvel at Ruth and at God's faithfulness.  (If you haven't read the complete story yet.  Your missing out because it is a great one!)

Today lets consider the idea of faithfulness to God and the people of God.  The question is this.  Would you follow God if you knew that the path would probably lead to your death on earth?   Now mind you most, if not all of us, will never have to make that choice.   But we are all called to be faithful to our God and faithful to our families.

It's not like faithfulness to Naomi would be easy.  As I read the first couple chapters, Naomi wasn't exactly the most optimistic and encouraging person to live with.   If you look at the text you could  get the impression that Naomi really didn't want Ruth around.  Perhaps it would have only added to her shame to return home to Bethlehem without her husband and sons but with a pagan woman from Moab.   In the text Ruth is called a Moabites.   That was even a less complementary title then what it sounds like to our ears.  It sounds a lot like arthritis or gingivitis or some other awful infection.   That's surely how the people of Bethlehem might have treated Ruth.   But that didn't matter to Ruth she would be faithful!

I pray that we can be so faithful to God, to our families and dare I say our in laws.....

to ponder:  What does my faithfulness to God cost me?  What blessings have I received because of my faithfulness to God in a less than Christian world?

Of course there is no guarantee that our faithfulness to God will be rewarded here on earth.  Just read the great Hall of Faith in Hebrews 11 to see evidence to this fact but we can be assured that God will be faithful and we will be rewarded in heaven!

Monday, July 15, 2013

faithfulness that won't let go. Ruth 1:16

I just love the story of Ruth and Naomi and it will be a joy to blog about it this week.   It is a great love story filled with intrege, hardship, heroism, romance, suspense and triumph!

The book bares the name of Ruth who was the daughter in law to Naomi.   However,Naomi may  very well be the main character.  Certainly she's the one that we can most closely relate.   Not very often do you find a Ruth in life but most of us have been like Naomi from time to time.

Naomi had suffered great loss.  She and her husband Elimelech left their home land of Bethlehem because of a great famine.  Traveling to the foreign land of Moab, both of her sons found and married Moabite women.  10 years had passed when she made the sad trip home after the death of her husband and the passing of her two sons.   She was destitute without hope.  All that was left for her was to beg back in her hometown of Bethlehem.

On her way home she told her daughters in law to return to their homes for there was no reason for them to die along with her but Ruth would not leave her side.   she proclaimed her devotion saying, "Don't urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God." Ruth 1:16

Yes, tragedy had come to both of them.  It was the kind of tragedy that was experienced by so many  in the dark and bloody days of the Judges.  But this story is not a tragedy.  It is a love story.  It the story of God's faithfulness as displayed through the kinsman redeemer Boaz.  For this reason the book of Ruth is described as a desert Rose.

Today God continues to grow and protect the desert roses. I believe that many people live in a desert spiritually, emotionally or physically speaking.  Some of us look at the world around us and wonder how we will make it.  Sometimes we think about the world awaiting our children. We wonder how will they survive the possible economic, crime and political struggles awaiting them.  The answer is this: God is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow.  Indeed we should lift up the faithfulness of Ruth but we should never forget the faithfulness or our God who makes beauty from ashes even today.

To ponder:  What ashes has God delivered you from?  What hardships has he protected you from?  
Is there a crises in your life right now?

  Remember Jesus is your redeemer right now and into the future.  So we don't need to fear for God is always near.  He is faithful and won't let us go!

Friday, July 12, 2013

Single minded...... Joshua 24:15

"...then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve..."   Joshua 24:15

Life is tough.... Ok that is an under statement but we know that it is.

Time hasn't changed in that way through the years.  It's always been tough and Joshua surely understood the really difficult days!   And that is an understatement!

Joshua was getting old and he had something to say to the next generation.  His advice is something we all need to hear as well.

Joshua brought the people together and said, "...choose this day whom you will serve..."   Joshua had made his choice.  He was a hero of the faith.  There was no wavering in Joshua's devotion.  His faith was pure from beginning to the end.  He had fought the good fight!  He had won the race and he was ready to receive the victor's prize.  What was the key to Joshua's life?  Simply stated:  "He had a single minded devotion to God.  He followed the words offered to him back in the first chapter of the book that bares his name.  

As I think about life and about all of those that I have both observed and counseled and as I consider my own life, it seems that the times of compromise are the most difficult days.   Yes, indeed walking on the fence isn't a lot of fun.

When you're walking on the fence it's easy for the enemy to push you off.   When you are on the fence looking at the pleasures of the world allowing them to entice you, life can be really hard and uncomfortable.   

No matter how you look at it.   If you're looking around it's hard to go straight in life!  Sometimes my wife has to remind me of that when I'm driving my car.  Sometimes I'm distracted by things and I look around and when I do the car inevitable starts to weave.....

I think until we settle it in heart that Jesus is our Lord... period... end of story,  we will always have the temptation to look around and perhaps to even dabble in the world around us.  Sometimes even when we are distracted and looking at good and pleasant things we can get off tract and weave side to side.

To Ponder:  When it comes to your faith in Jesus are you sometimes walking on the fence?  Are you tempted by the things of the world?   Are you in love with God so much that he captivates both your attention and your devotion?

Join with me in prayer: "Dear God we love you.  We want to follow you but we also know we get distracted from time to time.  Today we pray as David did in Psalm 139:23 and 24.  "Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See I there is any offensive way in me and lead me in the way everlasting."   Lord thank you for Joining us as we walk through life.  Help us to have a single minded focus upon you!  And today we say from the depths of our heart,  "As for me and my house we will serve the Lord!

Monday, July 8, 2013

As for me and my house.... Joshua 24:15

Hi blog friends.  Did you miss me last week?  Ok most of you probably didn't notice but I was on vacation with my family for part of the week!  We went camping for a couple days.  It was great fun.  I find that it is less fun to sleep on an air mattress as I'm getting older..... but everything about Camping is awesome.  Especially since your family is right their with you all the time!

Vacations are great times with the family so I put my blog aside for a week.  But now I'm back.

Actually last weeks vacation relates to my blog for the day.  Joshua in his old age had accomplished what God had asked of him as a leader.   So as a beloved leader he gathered the people around him and charged them to decide whom they would serve now and in the future!

We will look at this passage this week but today I want to point out that Joshua spoke for his entire house saying,"As for me and my house we will serve the Lord!"  Many times we find the idea in Scripture that a parent would come to faith and the entire family would come to faith as well.  We see this a couple of times in the book of Acts.  Acts 18  speaks of Crispus and his family which came to faith in response to Paul teachings of the gospel message of Christ.    In Acts 18:8 it says, "Crispus, the synagogue leader, and his entire household believed in the Lord; and many of the Corinthians who heard Paul believed and were baptized."

In many villages and tribes around the world we can be thankful that whole households continue to come to proclaim their faith in Christ in response to the gospel message. 

But today it is not a given by any stretch of the imagination that every child in a family will automatically follow in the foot steps of their parents when it comes to faith in Christ.   But Joshua's remark about his family following the Lord is an important statement for us to consider.   No we can't just stand and say that because I believe my children will follow my lead!

However, as parents one of our utmost responsibilities is to do everything that we can to direct our children toward the Lord.  It is their choice to believe but we must do whatever we can to live such a life before our children that coming to faith in Christ might be a natural response.

One of the best ways we can do this is to love our children by spending time with them.  Just think about it...  Why should they follow or believe that God loves them if we, as God's hands and feet, don't demonstrate love?

So last week was my week to spend time and to love my kids!  Vacations can be great times to display the love of Christ!  I hope you have special times this summer!

As a parent I am so blessed that all my kids have a love for God and are interested in following Christ as their Lord and Savior!  

To Ponder:   Remember what we do speaks much louder than what we say.   So how have you proclaimed the message of Jesus to your family through your actions today?