Daily Devotions Thursday November 20, 2008

Daily Devotions

Thursday, November 20, 2008


Current Study: People Who Made a Difference         


Today’s Topic: Humility and Obedience


Today’s Scripture:   1 Samuel 15:17-19  Samuel said, “Although you were once small in your own eyes, did you not become the head of the tribes of Israel? The LORD anointed you king over Israel. And he sent you on a mission, saying, ‘Go and completely destroy those wicked people, the Amalekites; make war on them until you have wiped them out.’ Why did you not obey the LORD? Why did you pounce on the plunder and do evil in the eyes of the LORD?”


Let’s continue our thoughts from yesterday. The secular philosophy of humanism declares that all people are good. As a result, every person can look at themselves with pride. Our self-esteem should be nurtured until we become great in our own eyes. Such humanistic thought is the antithesis of spiritual truth.


In today’s Scripture passage, Samuel commends King Saul for the humility he had in his early years. In fact, Samuel says it was that humility that God recognized and rewarded by anointing him King of Israel. But his humble spirit was gone. Pride had now taken over, and God was about to take away his position.


Samuel saw Saul’s pride. I believe that the  questions Samuel asks of Saul were rhetorical. Samuel already knew the answer. The questions were for Saul’s benefit to see if he would admit to the truth. Samuel knew why Saul did not obey the Lord. It was because Saul was now motivated by pride rather than trust in God.


There are two truths I want to share from this story today. First, God honors a humble spirit. God chooses to work in and through the lives of people who are small in their own eyes. God is seen best in the lives of people who understand how undeserving they are for God to even be in their lives. That thought came to my heart in a very real way this morning. Let me tell you a quick story.


I was in the car this morning at 5:50 a.m. heading for an Amish farm outside of Augusta, Wisconsin. A dear friend of mine from South Dakota needed me to check on the availability of lumber from the sawmill operated by Daniel, an Amish farmer. Daniel and I have gotten to know each other over the past 5 years, and he has started to open up to me. Today, through a series of God-ordained and appointed circumstances, Daniel opened up his heart to talk about his life. For over an hour I was able to share the Gospel with him, and discover that he has no assurance of a place in heaven. At one point of the conversation, while referring to the recent improvements to his barn, Daniel said these words – I don’t deserve what I have. Immediately the LORD nudged me and I told Daniel that’s exactly how I feel about my salvation – I don’t deserve it. After several moments, Daniel, in tears, came almost to the point of accepting Jesus as his Savior. But his cultural teaching got in the way. Pray for Daniel. He is so close. He considers me a friend. By his own admission this morning, I may be the only friend he can talk to about his life. Pray that God would draw him to salvation.


My point is that it was at the moment of seeing myself as small that God did His most powerful work. It is in humility that God is exalted. It is in our weakness that His strength is made available and visible. As the Apostle Paul said, If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness. Then, after asking God to remove his weaknesses, and hearing God say, My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness, Paul said, Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. When we are small in our own eyes, our eyes will see the Majesty of God. So will the eyes of others.


Secondly, notice how Samuel addresses the sin of Saul. He says that Saul’s disobedience was evil in the eyes of the LORD. Here are some penetrating questions that will be points to ponder.

  • Are we minimizing our sins because culture minimizes them?
  • Are we looking at our sins through the eyes of culture or the eyes of God?
  • Do we justify sin in our lives because of it’s immediate benefit to us?
  • Do we classify sin into categories of “acceptable” and “confessable”?
  • Do we assign blame for our sin to others?


If any of our answers to the above questions are influenced by our culture or our pride, then we have chosen to deny the reign of the LORD in our lives. Saul’s disobedience was the result of pride. All sin is the result of pride. All pride rejects God as Sovereign LORD. This is serious. Don’t gloss over this. Don’t think I am being radical. This is the truth. Pride caused Saul to pounce on the plunder that was to be destroyed. Pride will cause us to pounce on the sin that is to be destroyed in our lives. Humble yourself before the LORD today, and let Him be exalted in your life.


Pastor John

Daily Devotions Wednesday November 19, 2008

Daily Devotions

Wednesday, November 19, 2008


Current Study: People Who Made a Difference         


Today’s Topic: Personal Responsibility


Today’s Scripture:   1 Samuel 15:10-11   Then the word of the LORD came to Samuel: “I am grieved that I have made Saul king, because he has turned away from me and has not carried out my instructions.” Samuel was troubled, and he cried out to the LORD all that night.


We say it’s a new phenomenon. It’s not. We say it’s a new philosophy. In reality it’s as old as the human race. We think we are the first generation to have to deal with the problem to this degree. We are not. Humanism has been around for as long as their have been humans living with a sin nature, and that started with the first humans. Over the next several devotionals I want to address several humanistic issues that arise in the life of King Saul that are indicative of our current personal status and the status of the Christian church – a status that may not be worthy of praise.


In review, Saul was told to completely destroy the Amalekites and their possessions. He did not obey. He kept the King alive and then approved of his soldiers keeping the best of the flocks for themselves. That’s when God came to Samuel and said, “I am grieved that I have made Saul king, because he has turned away from me and has not carried out my instructions.”  Have you ever considered the implications of what God said? God is grieved by our choices and activities when they don’t conform to His standards. When we choose to pursue personal benefit and accomplish our own agenda the heart of God is grieved. Why should we expect that it isn’t? We are created in His image, and since we have emotions and feelings that can be hurt and grieved, then He must also. He does. But that only matters to those who truly love the Lord more than they love themselves. Let’s see which type of person Saul was.


The next morning after God had spoken to him, Samuel went to find King Saul. He was told that Saul had gone to Mount Carmel to set up a monument to himself. I’m sure we can all see the slippery slope of self-centeredness upon which Saul is sliding. After having received the Lord’s instructions, and gaining the Lord’s victory, Saul not only made an intentional choice to disobey God, but then set up a monument in his own honor, as if he had been responsible for the victory. Saul is choosing to glorify himself rather than God.


When Samuel finally finds Saul, the king makes a bold statement. It is the statement of a person trying to hide something. My dad always taught me that whenever I would arrive in a new town to become the pastor of a new church I should beware of those who initiate the first contact. The reason is that they usually have an agenda. That has been more true than I wish it were. Saul initiates conversation with Samuel and says, “The Lord bless you! I have carried out the Lord’s instructions.” Liar, liar, pants on fire. Samuel points out the lie by saying, “So what is this I hear? I hear sheep bleating and cattle lowing. Where did they come from?”  Now, here it comes, the transfer of blame that has been around ever since sin entered the world. Saul says, “The soldiers brought them.”  Saul took no personal responsibility for the actions he had approved, let alone for being king. He tried to blame someone else for what he had done.


You remember the first time that happened. It was in the Garden of Eden when God asked Adam what had happened, and he said, “It was the woman you gave me.” He blamed not only his wife, but bottom line he blamed God for giving him that wife. He actually thought that he could preserve some positive self image if he could convince God that his sin was God’s fault. Saul didn’t go quite that far, but he did try to pull another fast one on Samuel and God by suddenly deciding that the reason they had kept all of the livestock was so that they could be sacrificed to God. But notice something very important in the story. Saul says that they would sacrifice the animals to the Lord YOUR God (my emphasis). No longer did Saul consider God to be his God. God was Samuel’s God. You see, Saul had decided that he was the god of his own life, not the LORD God.


Well, before we get any further into the story, let me make two points. First, the humanistic philosophy of the world declares that the human race is basically good, and that evil comes from the pressures and failures of society. Time does not permit a full explanation, but trust me when I tell you that secular teaching contradicts the sacred. The ramifications of humanistic teaching are diverse, but in the case of Saul, and us, we are forced to place the blame for sin on someone else. The admission of personal responsibility for evil would mean that evil is generated from our own heart, which contradicts what secular people want to believe. This philosophy is the great deception of Satan, and has been around since Adam blamed Eve and God for his own sin.  We cannot be forgiven for what we do not admit, so it is impossible to be saved unless we admit we have sinned. But secular thought teaches us there is no need to be forgiven because we are not responsible for evil. Any such thought would destroy self-esteem, and concept that is in direct contradiction to the teaching of Scripture. My friends, be very careful. This philosophy will infiltrate your life and your church and destroy them if you do not recognize it.


Second, and finally, our life’s throne has only one seat. It is not possible to share the reign of our lives. As soon as Saul made the choice to serve his own interests and follow his own desires, he became his own god, and the LORD God was removed from his throne. This is serious. We must stop believing that we and God have a time share on the throne. God does not share His reign or His glory with anyone. When we choose to disobey God, we choose to be our own god. Every choice that we make and every action we perform that is contradictory to God’s character and will is a choice to remove Him from the throne of our lives. For each such action we must repent. Saul made up excuses. He rationalized. He attempted to justify his actions. He did not repent, and God removed His blessing from his life. The same will happen to us if we persist in sin.


I know this got long today, but it is so important. Please go back a read this again, and read deeply if you just skimmed it. Satan has mounted an attack against true faith, and the result is going to be a great falling away from faith in these last days. Guard your heart, and do not start sliding down the slippery slope of disobedience. Recognize the symptom of sliding – it is blaming others for what you yourself are responsible. Take responsibility for your life, and surrender it to God. He alone is LORD, and we are not gods.


Pastor John

Daily Devotions Tuesday November 18, 2008

Daily Devotions

Tuesday, November 18, 2008


Current Study: People Who Made a Difference         


Today’s Topic: Who Is God?


Today’s Scripture:   1 Samuel 15:1-2   Samuel said to Saul, “I am the one the LORD sent to anoint you king over his people Israel; so listen now to the message from the LORD. This is what the LORD Almighty says: ‘I will punish the Amalekites for what they did to Israel when they waylaid them as they came up from Egypt.’” 


If you could ask one question to God right now with the assurance that He would answer it, what would it be? I could not begin to list all of the things I’ve said I wanted to ask Him when I see Him someday. At the time they seemed super important, but now not so much. But if I could ask one question today, knowing He would fully answer it, I would boil all of the other questions down to this – “Who are you?”  I know, that sounds like I don’t know Him at all. That’s not the case. But I think we have all been far too satisfied with a small understanding of a great God. I believe that the more we know Him, the fewer questions we will have to ask.


For example, Samuel comes to King Saul to fill him in on God’s plans. God is going to bring justice to Israel by punishing those who stood in their way during God’s deliverance of them from Egypt. In the process of punishing the Amalekites, God instructs Saul to totally annihilate those people and all of their possessions. That sounds harsh. That looks like injustice. That makes me want to ask God some questions. But all of those questions would be motivated by a need to humanize God rather than exalt Him.


You see, many of the questions we want to ask God are based on our need to contextualize Him. As finite beings, we are incapable of fully comprehending the infinite. But our fleshly pride demands that we understand. The only way we can try to resolve this paradox is to humanize God – to bring Him into the context of human reason. We must be able to figure out why God does what He does and explain it so that it not only makes sense but provides a benefit to us.


Probably the biggest way we humanize God is by choosing to believe that God is for our benefit. When God’s will is to enforce perfect justice, as in the case of the Amalekites, our emotions aren’t prepared to deal with the killing of women and children. So to ease our pain we would rather see His love and mercy. When God chooses grace and mercy, and let’s someone off the hook who has hurt us, we want justice. It becomes very obvious in the questions we ask that we want God to serve our best interests. Not only that, but then we reserve the right to define what’s best for us. That way everything can fit into the neat and explainable box we call life.


That’s what King Saul did. Rather than destroy everyone and everything as God had commanded, he decided he would choose what was best and good. Here’s how the story reads – But Saul and the army spared Agag and the best of the sheep and cattle, the fat calves and lambs—everything that was good. These they were unwilling to destroy completely, but everything that was despised and weak they totally destroyed. Saul reserved the right to decide for himself what was good. He chose to have a small view of God that fit into his neat and explainable box. He believed that God was for his benefit.


This is a perfect picture of what God wants each of us to do with any sin in our lives. Sin waylays us from serving God, and must be completely eliminated. Our emotions will tell us that there are elements of the sin that are not so bad. Some may even benefit us for the moment. But to believe such a lie is to have a false view of God. He is perfectly sinless, and perfectly just in destroying it all. He has asked us to do the same. The writer of Hebrews challenges us this way. Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.


God chose to punish the people who hindered His plan for His people. They were to be totally eliminated. God’s will is for us to do the same with every sin in our lives, because every sin hinders us from becoming and accomplishing all that God has planned for us. But that is only possible if we choose to fix our eyes on Him. God is not for our benefit – we are for His. Not that God needs us to exist – He doesn’t. He is self-existent. But He created us for His own glory, not for ours. His glory is accomplished when suffering sinful people become surrendered sacrificial people who serve Him not themselves. His glory is exalted above the earth when His good is poured out into the lives of people who let Him define good. His glory is more clearly seen in the lives of people who are being transformed into His likeness, not the likeness of the world.  The Apostle Paul said, “We, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.”


Our goal in life is not to use God to make our lives better. Our purpose in living, since coming to Christ for salvation, is to surrender to the transforming power of the Holy Spirit in our lives so that we reflect the likeness of Jesus Christ in ever-increasing glory. That process starts by asking the right question. “God, who are you?” Then, as God begins to answer that question, all the other questions will disappear.


Pastor John

Daily Devotions Monday November 17, 2008

Daily Devotions

Monday, November 17, 2008


Current Study: People Who Made a Difference         


Today’s Topic: Stand Up For What’s Right


Today’s Scripture:   1 Samuel 14:44-45   Saul said, “May God deal with me, be it ever so severely, if you do not die, Jonathan.” But the men said to Saul, “Should Jonathan die—he who has brought about this great deliverance in Israel? Never! As surely as the LORD lives, not a hair of his head will fall to the ground, for he did this today with God’s help.” So the men rescued Jonathan, and he was not put to death.


Let’s review our story so far. King Saul had bound the military personnel of Israel with an oath that they could not eat any food until after the daily battles with Philistines. They were only allowed to eat after sundown each night. Disobedience was punishable by death. In an attempt to show the urgency of defeating Israel’s enemies, Saul had impulsively issued an order that was both unwise and unjust. He was not modeling good leadership skills.


Saul’s son Jonathon had not been informed of the oath, nor had he been a part of swearing to it. As he and the army entered the woods one day they came across a large flow of honey from what is presumed to be a large bee’s nest in the ground. Jonathon dipped his staff in the honey and ate some. At that point the soldiers told him about the oath. Jonathon declares the oath of the king to be foolish, stating that his father was actually making trouble for the country by his order. Later that day, the king finds out what had happened, and to defend the integrity of his reign he orders his son put to death, claiming that it is the right thing to do before God.


Now, I do not think that this story can be used to support rebellion against the government when we disagree with its laws. But there is a huge lesson in this story about what to do when we’ve made a poor decision. We all make poor decisions at times. Sometimes the decisions are small ones and don’t affect many people other than ourselves. We may impulsively choose to buy something we didn’t really need and then regret it later when an unexpected bill arrives. But many times our decisions dramatically affect others. We may impulsively say the wrong thing at the wrong time and someone gets deeply offended or hurt. I know there were times when raising our children that in the emotional heat of discipline consequences were enforced that didn’t really fit the offense. We’ve all probably worked for employers at times who had what we considered to be stupid rules in the workplace. Maybe we were the boss who made those rules.


When we make a poor decision, we have two choices of subsequent action. One choice is that we can stay the course. Pride says this is the best option. It’s the option Saul initially chose. Even if it meant the death of his son, he believed his integrity as king was at stake. He thought the only way to be respected was to prove he could stand by his decisions. How wrong he was. What it revealed was a huge level of insecurity in his life. It’s the same for us. When we feel we have to earn respect and protect image by following up bad decisions with more bad decisions, we are exposing the sin of pride manifested in the character flaw of insecurity. There is another option that will actually bring the results that we desire. It’s called humility.


The other choice we have when we make a bad decision is to admit it, change it, and make it right. This requires humility. Sometimes it requires someone standing up to us. That’s what happened in our story. After Saul’s initial response to what Jonathon did, the rest of the army stood up for what was right and opposed the king. They reminded the king that what Jonathon did actually saved Israel, implying that what Saul had ordered had hurt the country. Notice that they didn’t specifically condemn what the King had done, they only showed the benefit of what Jonathon had done. Then they went a step further. They corrected Saul’s perspective on who was actually following God. The king thought he was, because he felt he had an obligation to enforce an oath. But if that oath was made outside of the will of God, which it was, then repentance is necessary, not enforcement.


There are two simple yet profound lessons for us in this story. First, be humble enough to admit when you’ve made a bad decision or committed a sin, and make it right. Second, be strong enough to stand up for others when you know they are in the right. The soldiers of Israel made a difference in Jonathon’s life because they stood up for him and opposed the king. Every day we are confronted with situations of injustice, and we must take a stand for righteousness. Our culture is filled with wrongs. Even though it is not our top Kingdom priority to make the wrongs right – that’s reserved for witnessing and getting people saved – it is a result of the working of the Holy Spirit in our lives. The love of God will give us compassionate hearts for those who are suffering unjustly. Jesus Himself described one aspect of His mission when He read from the prophet Isaiah and said, “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor…Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”


Let our lives reflect the same mission. We will stand up for righteousness by reaching down to those who have fallen. We will be lifted up by lifting others. We will be filled when we empty ourselves into others. We will be blessed when we become a blessing to others. It is the work of the Holy Spirit in us, and He wants to do His work in you.


Pastor John



Daily Devotions Thursday November 13, 2008

Daily Devotions

Thursday, November 13, 2008


Current Study: People Who Made a Difference         


Today’s Topic: Sometimes God Is Silent


Today’s Scripture:   1 Samuel 14:37   So Saul asked God, “Shall I go down after the Philistines? Will you give them into Israel’s hand?” But God did not answer him that day.


The park ranger was leading a group of hikers to a lookout tower in Yellowstone National Park. Along the way he pointed out some of the famous sites in the park. He was so intent on the stories he was telling, that he paid no attention when his two-way radio received a message. He turned it down. Later they stopped to look at some flowers and view some of the birds in nearby trees. Once again his radio distracted the ranger, so this time he turned it off. As the group neared the lookout tower they were met by a nearly breathless ranger who asked why the guide hadn’t responded to the messages on his radio. From their viewpoint, high in the tower, some other rangers had observed a large grizzly bear stalking the group. They had been trying desperately to warn the hikers.


Many times we are so involved in personal activities and pursuits in this life, we don’t pay attention to the voice of God trying to get through to us. Sometimes we turn down the volume. Sometimes we are distracted by other things and don’t hear Him. Sometimes we even turn Him off. But we must know this – God is always paying attention even when we aren’t, and He is trying to get through to us.


But what about those times when we are waiting to hear from Him and He is silent? If God were like me I could understand His silence – he is paying me back for all the times I chose not to listen. I am so thankful that He is not like me. His silence is never payback for inattentiveness. But His silence does have a purpose.


Today’s story of King Saul relates one of the reasons for God’s silence when we seek Him – SIN. In preparation for their last battle, the army of Israel had been directed by the King to not eat until after the fighting was over each day. The king’s own son, Jonathon, disobeyed that order. Even though the King’s order was poorly thought out and harmful to the soldiers, he was still the king, and God requires respect for authority. God wanted the sin exposed.  So when Saul came to the Lord to inquire about the next move the army should make, God was silent. Saul knew immediately that the primary reason God removes Himself from any situation is because He will not work where sin is honored.


We must understand clearly that sin is not the only reason for the silence of God, but it should be the first place we look in our lives if He is silent. Here are some other examples from Scripture.

·         King David said in Psalm 66:18, If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened;

·         The Lord spoke to Ezekiel the prophet about Israel’s sin and said, Son of man, these men have set up their idols in their heart, and put the stumbling block of their iniquity before their face: should I be inquired of at all by them?

·         Elihu, the friend of Job, said, He does not answer when men cry out because of the arrogance of the wicked.

·         As Solomon begins the book of Proverbs, he warns his readers that there will be a consequence to rejecting the truth and living according to the desires of the flesh. He says, “Then they will call to me but I will not answer; they will look for me but will not find me.

·         Jesus, while on the cross and at the moment the sin of the world was placed upon Him, quoted the beginning of Psalm 22 which says, My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? The next verse says, Why are you so far from saving me, so far from the words of my groaning? O my God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer.


When the sin of the world was placed on Jesus, God became silent. When we allow sin to remain unrepentant in our hearts, God will be silent when we seek Him. Again, there are other reasons He is silent at times, but this must be our first point of spiritual assessment when He is. So today, do an assessment of your life. Ask the Holy Spirit to show you the sin in your life. Be ready to be honest and humbled. Then confess it, repent of it, and accept His forgiveness. You will hear from Him again.


Pastor John






Daily Devotions Wednesday November 12, 2008

Daily Devotions

Wednesday, November 12, 2008


Current Study: People Who Made a Difference         


Today’s Topic: Quit Trying So Hard!


Today’s Scripture:   2 Corinthians 12:9-10   But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.


For the last two days I have been at a Pastor’s Retreat with my wife, our Associate Pastor and his wife, and our office administrator and her husband. We spent those days relaxing in the north woods of Wisconsin at Camp Forest Springs. There was lots of laughter as we played Farkle, and the development of some new relationships with other pastors and wives at the retreat. The setting was perfect, at least for me, with brisk morning walks down by the lake to enjoy the splendor of God’s creation.


Our speaker at the retreat was Dr. Richard Swenson, who spoke on the relationship between the Sovereignty of God and the pace of life. He loaded our minds with incredible information, and challenged our thinking about faith in God. He painted a scientific picture of our infinite God – a picture we had not seen before. Then, at just the right time, the Lord asked me a specific question – “If you really believe I’m that great and totally sovereign, why do you work so hard to make sure everything turns out right?”


There are only two possible responses to that question. One is that I don’t really believe that He’s that great and sovereign, and that somehow life depends upon my wisdom and strength. The other response is one of repentance, leading to complete trust in our Sovereign God. I chose the second response.


Life has gotten far too intense to live safely, securely, and satisfactorily. But the intensity of life is of our own choosing. Our faith has been placed in our own abilities to manage life rather than in God’s sovereignty. We have adopted the progress mindset of our culture and have buried contentment in the grave of greed. The pursuit of our dreams and desires has intensified the demands on our bodies. It has caused an increase in depression, irritability, anger, and frustration. We have become disorganized, fatigued, and are on the verge of burnout. Because we seek some form of release from the pressure, we turn to self-medication through alcohol, drugs, or sex, bringing moral failure into our lives. We suffer health issues like abnormal sleeping patterns, or intestinal and cardiovascular problems. All this because we have chosen to live at a pace we were never designed to live because we believe progress and prosperity are fulfilling. We have chosen that pace because we don’t really trust God to work all things out for His glory according to His purpose. We have decided we need to be in control.


As a result, the body of Christ suffers right along with our physical body. Come on, admit it. When we get busy and tired and overwhelmed with life, what’s the first activity that gets put aside? Right! Church. Relationship with God is replaced with the lie that working harder at life will bring a better life. Now we are caught in the vicious downward spiral that brings cheering to the armies of Satan. We are too busy to pray or serve. We are too exhausted for relationships. Our joy is gone. We have become addicted to making life better by working harder at life, and we are in denial of our addiction.


But God wants to set us free. The truth is that He is in control of all life, and that when we sacrifice life for His sake He will give us abundant life. The truth is that when we admit our weakness, His power is released. The problem is that we really don’t understand or trust the God we claim to serve. If we really believed then we would act like it. We serve a God who spoke the universe into existence. Nothingness obeys His voice.  He controls time, space, matter, and light. He monitors the position of every elementary particle. He is sufficient unto Himself.  He does not need anybody or anything to accomplish His purposes. He answers to no one.  He obeys only His own counsel.  He works on infinite levels all at the same time. He is God, and He is our friend. He is in control, and He can be trusted.


I leave you with this quote from Dag Hammarskjold, the second Secretary General of the United Nations. He said, Your own efforts “did not bring it to pass,” only God . . . Rejoice if you feel that what you did was “necessary,” but remember, even so, that you were simply the instrument by means of which He added one tiny grain to the Universe He has created for His own purposes.  His grace is sufficient for you, and His power is made perfect in your weakness. Quit trying so hard!


Pastor John



Daily Devotions Friday November 7, 2008

Daily Devotions

Friday, November 07, 2008


Current Study: People Who Made a Difference         


Today’s Topic: Watch Your Words


Today’s Scripture:   1 Samuel 14:35   Then Saul built an altar to the LORD; it was the first time he had done this.


I know, it’s Friday, and I’m supposed to be off hunting. But I don’t have any arrows left. That crazy buck I shot on Wednesday broke them all. What? You didn’t here about the buck? Well, I won’t bore you with the whole story, but there a couple of pictures below. So anyway, it took me all morning to get him out of the woods and by the time I got home my day was shot. So I’m working today, hence the devotional.


As I approached the downed deer on Wednesday morning, I gave thanks to the LORD for his goodness and provision. It wasn’t simply because it was the biggest deer I’ve ever shot – 9 points with a kicker on one of the brow times, and around 200 pounds. I was thankful for several reasons. I had stayed safe. I had been provided with meat for the freezer. I had a new appreciation for the beauty of creation and that we can use it for our enjoyment and sustenance. I was sincerely experiencing a moment of worship in the woods. I didn’t officially build an altar there – we don’t do that literally any more. But spiritually I built one. I said a verbal thank you to God and praised Him for several moments. I thought about how our forefathers must have felt when their lives depending on hunts like this when they settled this great land. I envisioned those first Thanksgiving celebrations. This was a powerful moment of personal perspective about God’s provision. I will always remember that spot in the woods, and what God did that day.


Then I read about Saul this morning, and realized that he had gone over two years as King of God’s chosen people and he had not yet built an altar to the LORD. Not once in that first phase of his reign did he set aside a moment or memory to honor God. Not once had he been thankful for God’s provision. It’s no wonder the kingdom is about to be taken away from him.


My short challenge to you today is this – take the time to build some altars of thanksgiving in your life. Every day God provides for us. Every moment God guides us. Every circumstance of our lives is under His control and being used for His glory. He is building and shaping us to reflect the life of His Son Jesus. If our hearts are sensitive to the Holy Spirit, we would see the hand of God on every aspect of our lives, and we would be thankful.


So slow down today. Stop every once in a while and have a moment of worship. Soon you will discover that every moment of your life can be a moment of worship. You see, God is God always. He never leaves you. He will never forsake you. We just need to pay more attention to His presence.


Pastor John

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Daily Devotions Thursday November 6, 2008

Daily Devotions

Thursday, November 06, 2008


Current Study: People Who Made a Difference         


Today’s Topic: Watch Your Words


Today’s Scripture:   1 Samuel 14:24   Now the men of Israel were in distress that day, because Saul had bound the people under an oath, saying, “Cursed be any man who eats food before evening comes, before I have avenged myself on my enemies!” So none of the troops tasted food.


According to Greek mythology, Midas, the Phyrgian king, asked a favor of the gods, and they agreed to grant him anything that he desired. The king decided to make the best of their offer. He asked that whatever he touched in the future be turned into gold. The wish was granted, but the consequences were severe! He placed his hand upon a rock, and immediately it became a huge chunk of priceless gold. He laid his hand on his staff, and it, too, became a rod of precious gold. At first the king was overcome with joy, and he returned to his palace as one of the most favored kings. He sat at his dinner-table, and every item of food that he touched turned into solid gold. Then he realized that this foolish wish would cause him to die in the midst of his newly-found riches, and he fearfully remembered these ominous words: “The gods cannot take back their gifts.” He then begged the gods to restore him to the coarsest, vilest food, and deliver him from the curse of greed.


This was the scenario for King Saul. He was mad at his enemies. He took seriously his position as their leader. He understood his responsibility to protect and defend. But was foolish. Somehow there was a disconnect between his intentions and his actions. His intentions were to emphasize to his army the seriousness of their duty and to keep them focused on their mission. His actions actually deterred the soldiers from that mission. In an attempt to build the resolve of the men, he minimized their resources. He told them they could not eat until they had put in a full day of service. He forgot that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. As a result of his foolish action, the soldiers grew weak and unable to fulfill their duties. Saul would later have to deal with the regret of what he said when he discovered that his own son Jonathon had broken the oath and should be put to death. More on that next week.


For today, let’s think about the things we say that we wish we had never said. I’m sure we all live with regret over words spoken in haste or anger. Some of us are just plain foolish and don’t think about what we say before we say it. Remember the old saying – “Think twice, speak once.” That’s not normal for me, but it is inexcusable because it is foolishness. We have all said and done things that we thought were going to turn out for good and they turned out badly. We have all had our motives brought into question based on the decisions we made because we foolishly failed to think through the options. We even excuse some of those words and choices by saying we have a unique learning style that requires us to think out loud. But Proverbs says, When words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise.” Or listen carefully to these words of Solomon in Ecclesiastes – “Words from a wise man’s mouth are gracious, but a fool is consumed by his own lips. At the beginning his words are folly; at the end they are wicked madness—and the fool multiplies words. No one knows what is coming…” We must all learn to make sure the motor of our mind is running before we attempt to put the tongue in gear.


But what about all the hurts we have already caused? Can we ever overcome the damage that’s already been done? Our enemy the Devil certainly has a great ability to improve our memory when it comes to failures, doesn’t he? Regret can eat us up. But we must understand that regret is the product of faithless forgiveness. We may claim that we understand the forgiveness of God, but regret proves otherwise. If we really believe that the forgiveness of God is really real, then we will act like it. Let me illustrate. Marjorie Holmes tells this story in an article entitiled “Heart to Heart” in an issue of Today’s Christian Woman. One day, while I was grieving over some past failures, I received a letter from a friend who told me how she and her granddaughter had been watching a plane skywrite. The little girl was puzzled when the words began disappearing, but suddenly piped up, “Maybe Jesus has an eraser!” In her innocent wisdom I realized that just as skywriting disappears, Jesus wipes away all things I so bitterly regret. No matter how much we mature as Christians, and try desperately to compensate, memories of our own failures can rise up and haunt us. But, with God’s forgiveness, they will fade away—Jesus does have an eraser. As we make the changes necessary to stop the foolishness, God will eliminate the regrets of the past. Watch your words – trust His forgiveness – and move on.


Pastor John

Daily Devotions Tuesday November 4, 2008

Daily Devotions

Tuesday, November 04, 2008


Current Study: People Who Made a Difference         


Today’s Topic: Who’s Your Hero?


Today’s Scripture:   1 Samuel 14:6-7   Jonathan said to his young armor-bearer, “Come, let’s go over to the outpost of those uncircumcised fellows. Perhaps the LORD will act in our behalf. Nothing can hinder the LORD from saving, whether by many or by few.” “Do all that you have in mind,” his armor-bearer said. “Go ahead; I am with you heart and soul.”


Ten year old boys ask a lot of questions. As they’ve grown up they’ve always asked questions, but now they don’t do it out loud. The questions are deep in their mind, and they find their answers in a variety of places – some good and some not so good. They are questions about identity and value. Why do I look this way? Why do I act this way? What can I do to make other kids like me? Who do I want to be like when I grow up? Who is my hero?


One such boy was fortunate to grow up in a family that loved Jesus. He had lots of influence from Godly role models. He was protected from the influence of evil through media because he grew up in a time when television shows were wholesome and movies were family-oriented. He was given a great opportunity to find the answers to his questions in the right places.


One day, while at school, he decided who his hero was. He knew who he wanted to imitate with his life. He knew what kind of a man he wanted to become, and what kind of a friend he wanted to be to others. He was so enamored by this “hero” hat he actually changed his own name. His name was already related to this new hero, so it seemed like an easy transition. He started signing his school papers with the new name. His teacher wondered what was going on. She thought he was having a major identity crisis, when in reality he was determining values that would last the rest of his life. She called his parents. They met at the school, and asked the boy what he was doing. He told them that he had been listening to his Sunday School teacher tell the story of this hero from the Bible. Every part of his life fascinated the boy. He admitted that he wanted to be just like him and have those same values and qualities. His parents were very proud of him, but refused to let him continue to use the wrong name. They had specifically chosen his name after another Bible character and a relative. To honor his family, the boy agreed. He decided that the name wasn’t as important as the characteristics, and they couldn’t stop him from being like his hero even if he wasn’t named exactly the same. So he went back to being John instead of Jonathon.


The story of Jonathon still fascinates me, and the story of his life really did influence me. Especially the one we read in today’s Scripture in 1 Samuel 14. The nation of Israel is being threatened by their enemy the Philistines. They are severely outnumbered. In fact, the only two people in the entire army that have swords are King Saul and his son Jonathon. The nation is hiding in terror. The army scatters looking for caves, thickets, or even cisterns in which to hide. The soldiers have no weapons and no clear leadership, even from their King.


It’s easy to get discouraged when we look outnumbered and overpowered. It’s typical to withdraw and go into hiding. Our first impulse is to protect what we have left. Not my hero. Not Jonathon. Hopefully not me either. Ever. Jonathon calls his armor-bearer from the rocks, and they alone proceed up the mountain to the Philistine outpost. In the face of overwhelming odds, certain ridicule, and possible death, they step out in faith. WOW! I’m overwhelmed just writing this. I need to take a break and just praise God for a moment for teaching me this….


Do you understand the incredible statement that Jonathon makes, and the equally incredible one his armor-bearer makes? Jonathon knows the LORD and what He stands for. He has identified the enemy. He has made his choice to stand for the LORD. He has full confidence in what the LORD can and will do. He says, Nothing can hinder the LORD from saving, whether by many or by few.” Oh how I needed this lesson today. The many may be against us, but the few win when God is with them. Especially when those few have the faith of Jonathon and the commitment of the armor-bearer, who said, “Go ahead; I am with you heart and soul.”


Those of you who know me well now have an explanation for my “bull-in-the-china-shop” leadership style. I rarely look at odds. I see the Bible filled with courageous men and women who stepped out in faith and took on a whole outpost of soldiers with only one weapon. I see giant-slayers. I see faith in the LORD when others see fear of the world. I still wish my name was Jonathon. But more than that, I still want to have his courage and his faith. I want to be a friend like he was to King David. I want my life to be remembered for one thing – no matter what the odds, I not only stood for God, but advanced when others went into hiding. Who is with me heart and soul?


Pastor John


Daily Devotions Monday November 3, 2008

Daily Devotions

Monday, November 03, 2008


Current Study: People Who Made a Difference         


Today’s Topic: Desire God


Today’s Scripture:   1 Samuel 9:20   And to whom is all the desire of Israel turned, if not to you and all your father’s family?”


The people of Israel had become unsettled and dissatisfied with life. Samuel had been their ruler as a Judge for his entire life. When he grew old, he appointed his sons Joel and Abijah to serve as judges. They were corrupt. They accepted bribes and sought dishonest gain, and they perverted justice. The people became disillusioned with their leadership. They asked Samuel to appoint a king over them so they could be like the other nations of the world.


At first Samuel took this personally. He thought the people were rejecting him. But God spoke to him and told him the truth. The people were rejecting God. They were turning away from the One who had rescued them from the hands of the Egyptians, the Philistines, and all other enemies. They would rather live according to the standards of the world than under the supervision of the LORD. God would allow them to make such a choice, but not without fair warning of the consequences.


Through Samuel, God warned the people that a king will be committed to his own agenda and not the plan of God. A king will believe he is not accountable to anyone except himself, and would dedicate himself to his own security and prosperity rather than the good of the people. He will take their sons and force them to be his servants to manage his own affairs. He will take their daughters and make them his servants to provide his own household with all the luxuries of life. He will tax the people excessively, taking the best of their crops to give to his attendants. He will take the best of their own servants, and along with the best of their cattle and flocks, he will make them his own. They will become so burdened under the taxation and demands of the king that they themselves will have to become his slaves just to survive. No longer will they be free to own land or build personal financial stability. They will instead become totally dependant upon their government to provide for them.


When the people heard this, they refused to believe it. They were convinced that they had made the right choice to desire a king, and they were going to save face at all cost by continuing to pursue one even though it was not what was best for them. So God directed Samuel to give them the desire of their heart. The people would have to learn the hard way. God led Samuel to a man named Saul. He would appeal to the people. He was a man of great physical stature – a head taller than any other person in the nation. He was without equal when compared to other people. God told Samuel that he would be the man that would deliver the nation from the bondage of the Philistines. For a time, Saul would listen to the LORD and would accomplish His purpose.


When Samuel meets Saul, he makes this statement to him – “The desire of all of Israel is turned to you and your father’s family.” Imagine how hard that must have been for Samuel to say. He was announcing to Saul that the people had decided that a mere man could lead them better than the LORD. The desire of the people was no longer for the heavenly King but for an earthly king. They had become totally enamored with the idea that a man could provide them with the cultural, social, and financial benefits they longed for. They had become so blinded by the desires of the flesh that they were willing to sacrifice their trust in God for trust in a man.


When Samuel gives his farewell speech to the people after Saul has been anointed as king, he makes this statement – Now here is the king you have chosen, the one you asked for; see, the LORD has set a king over you. If you fear the LORD and serve and obey him and do not rebel against his commands, and if both you and the king who reigns over you follow the LORD your God—good! But if you do not obey the LORD, and if you rebel against his commands, his hand will be against you, as it was against your fathers. God then gave them a sign that they had not done his will when they asked for a king, and the people finally admitted they had sinned. They were afraid. But Samuel assured them that if they and their king served the LORD, He would continue to bless them even though they had made the wrong choice. Then Samuel promised to pray for them.


The story of Israel and Saul is being lived out today. The desire of many Americans is being turned to a man who they believe will provide them with cultural, social, and financial benefits. Those desires have overwhelmed their desire to be faithful to God and His non-negotiable values. They have turned to trust in man and sacrificed their trust in God. One man is not the answer. Our hope is not in government. Our hope is in the LORD. Our answer is in Jesus Christ. Tomorrow, let your vote reflect your desire for God.


Pastor John