Monday, March 31, 2014

1 Samuel 25-27

Samuel, a trusted man of God and prophet, dies and is buried in his hometown.  King David is still on the move, not yet living out the fullness of his role as King of Israel in 1 Samuel 25-27.  David works hard to approach everyone in every situation with kindness (except of course those whom God needs him to conquer).  While David's kind approach continues to win him favor with God, it doesn't always work that way with the people he encounters, like Nabal and Saul.  Thank goodness, they are no match for God's bigger plan for David.

David continues to live in craziness and limbo these days.  I keep reading and hoping that each new section will end with David finally getting to take over as king.  He deserves it, I think.  It's time already!  I am so over King Saul and his ridiculous mood swings when it comes to David.

Can you believe the anointed leader of Israel, one of the greatest men in the Old Testament, King David, lives with the enemy, the Philistines, for a year and four long months?  Really, what in the world is going on here?!

Then David said to Achish, “If I have found favor in your eyes, let a place be assigned to me in one of the country towns, that I may live there. Why should your servant live in the royal city with you?”
So on that day Achish gave him Ziklag, and it has belonged to the kings of Judah ever since.  7David lived in Philistine territory a year and four months.

The situation is just weird, difficult, and it has to be so frustrating at times.

How about it?  Have you ever had to live in some sort of limbo?  You are waiting for something or on something; but in the meantime, you have to keep going.

We can learn from David.  He walks in God's favor.  

I think it's remarkable how David just accepts where he is at this point in his journey with God.  And, he continues to seek God and think about what God wants him to do for the time being. His motivation is God's will.  David has kingdom work to do that serves a greater purpose than we are able to fully wrap our little heads around.  He doesn't let God's larger promises go to his head.  He remains humble.

He has told you, O mortal, what is good;

    and what does the Lord require of you

but to do justice, and to love kindness,

    and to walk humbly with your God?

I am reminded of God's grace in my life as I think about David.  God loves me so much that He gave His son's life on a cross for my eternal life.  

And, God did the same thing for you.

What greater place could we find ourselves in this life than that?  

Saved by Jesus Himself, Emmanuel, God with us.   

The Kingdom of God is near.

A prayer for today-

Dear God, 

Thank You for sending Your own Son, Jesus, to save me from my sins and fill me with Your promise of eternal life. 

Help me to remember that Your Kingdom is both here on earth and in heaven.  I know You have purposeful Kingdom work for me to do in this life, where I am right now.  

I pray that the dreams in my heart are Your will for me.  

May Your Kingdom come, Lord, and Your will be done, 
on earth, as it is in heaven.

In the name of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit I pray,


*This post is part of A Mind-Maker-Upper's Everyday Reading Project.  Click here to read more.


Saturday, March 29, 2014

1 Samuel 21-24

David, the anointed and not yet acting king of Israel, is running for his life in 1 Samuel 21-24.  Saul wants him dead.  Saul doesn't catch David, but he murders all but one of the priests in Nob.  David is scared to death and pretends to be insane when he flees from place to place.  In the process, David wins an army of madmen at his service.  David continues to consult God for guidance through the craziness.  God is on his side, and that proves to be David's life-saver.  We get a surprise ending when Saul takes a bathroom break (of all things) in a nearby cave.  Saul's need to pee gives David the chance to kill him, but he spares Saul's life instead and makes an oath with him.  And for that, Saul blesses David.

Crazy stuff with a big and better purpose, that's often how God works in our lives too.

When we have a whole lot of crazy happening, we can turn to God, like David, and ask him to guide us to his bigger and better purpose in our situation.

And when we are in the middle of the crazy, because sometimes we are, God will often bless us with a divine friendship or two to keep us going.  

Yesterday, I pointed to the divine friendship between David and Saul's son, Jonathan.

Things get even worse for David before they get better as we read today, and we see the divine friendship come up again. 

15 While David was at Horesh in the Desert of Ziph, he learned that[a] Saul had come out to take his life. 16 And Saul’s son Jonathan went to David at Horesh and helped him find strength in God. 17 “Don’t be afraid,” he said. “My father Saul will not lay a hand on you. You will be king over Israel, and I will be second to you. Even my father Saul knows this.” 18 The two of them made a covenantbefore the Lord. Then Jonathan went home, but David remained at Horesh.

See, sometimes God uses our friends to be His loving hands, to encourage us, to give us strength when we are weak, and to fill us with His hope.  Divine friends meet us, like God, wherever we are.  Divine friendship is beautiful.

We all need divine friends who are willing to bring us to God when we need it the most.

We are also called to be a divine friend to others.

Who needs You today?

A prayer-

Dear God,

Thank You for my divine friends and the blessings they bring to my life.  I pray for them today.  

Show me who needs me to be Your loving hands this day.  Help me be a divine friend to others.

In the name of Your Son, My Savior, Jesus I pray,

In Christ's love,

*This post is part of A Mind-Maker-Upper's Everyday Reading Project.  Click here to read more.

Friday, March 28, 2014

1 Samuel 18-20

Thanks to God, David finds favor everywhere he goes, in everything he does.  He has just defeated Goliath, the Philistine giant, and Saul's fear of David festers throughout 1 Samuel 18-20.  David marries Saul's daughter, Michal, and becomes Saul's son-in-law (of all things).  And even though Saul accepts David into his family, his motives prove to be dangerous and life-threatening for David.  God knows what's going on, and he uses Jonathan, Saul's son and David's best friend, to keep Israel's new king safe.

David is in a really tough spot.  His situation is so complicated today!  How about you?  Do you ever find yourself between a rock and a hard place?

David is now the anointed king, but he's not taking over the kingly duties yet.  He is in this weird period of waiting.  He's serving the former, but still active King Saul (who hates him), and he is married to Saul's daughter.  Not to mention, David is a star officer in Israel's army, and Saul purposefully puts him in harm's way as often as possible.  And, when David's life isn't on the line in battle, Saul attempts to kill him again and again.

It's a lot of craziness going on!

Yet, it is clear that God is with David.  God is the source of his success.  It's happening step by step, David just doesn't fully know the extent of his success at this point in the story.

14 In everything he did he had great success, because the Lord was with him.

True success comes from God.  It's ours for the taking even when we have a whole lot of craziness going on.  We have to trust our Creator and Redeemer.  

It's easier said than done.

God wants to use each of us, and I believe God wants all of us to succeed.

One of God's greatest gifts in this world is divine friendship.  He blesses us with friends and family members who truly love us for who He made us to be.   

These kind of friendships are invaluable in sustaining us, supporting us, and encouraging us as we go from here to there in living out His plan for our lives.

Jonathan is that kind of friend to David.  They have a tight, special bond that goes way beyond temporary circumstances.  It's a God driven relationship.

After David had finished talking with Saul, Jonathan became one in spirit with David, and he loved him as himself.

Jonathan is a life-saver in David's life.

So that's where I want to stop today and give thanks.  

How about you?  Do you have any life-saving friendships?

A prayer for today-

Dear God,

Thank You for blessing me with divine friendships.  Thank You for using those friendships in life-saving ways.

I especially grateful for (name those on your hear)_______________________.
I lift him/her/them up to You today and pray You will bless him/her/them.  

Guide me in the ways You need me to be a friend.

In the name of Your Son, Jesus, I pray,

Grace and peace,
*This post is part of A Mind-Maker-Upper's Everyday Reading Project.  Click here to read more.


Thursday, March 27, 2014

1 Samuel 15-17

Saul continues to do his thing his way as king of Israel, and God knows Saul is no longer the man for the job.  His heart just isn't where it needs to be in 1 Samuel 15-17.  While Saul is still king, God has Samuel anoint a new king for His people.   

Remember Ruth and Boaz in Bethlehem who united through a series of God's divine appointments?  Remember their son, Obed who we learn grows up and has a son, Jesse?  Well, God is stilling working His bigger plan across generations at this point in our reading.  Jesse grows up and has a son named David.  

We meet David today.  He is the youngest of eight sons.  He's a shepherd, and those who know him would never dream that David would become one of the greatest men in the Old Testament.  But, we know, that's often how God works, through the most unlikely and the least.  

So, God chooses David to be King of Israel.  God fills him with His Holy Spirit; and once that happens, King David plays a huge role in God's story as He works out all the love-filled details...step by step.  

David is King and only a few people know it.

David ends up working for Saul, first playing the lyre and then serving as one of Saul's armor-bearers.  It's no coincidence that these two paths are crossing.  We know God is up to something big.

And then we realize, the least likely to become King is also the least likely to beat Goliath, the Philistine giant and champion.  But, that's God's plan exactly. 

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

I love the story of David and Goliath.  Every time I read it, something new stands out to me.    

David's story with Goliath reminds me that the SMALL things we do for God are just as powerful and purposeful as the BIG things we do for God as we try to live out His best for our lives.

And so, David, the new King of Israel, finds himself going back and forth between shepherding sheep and serving Saul.  Notice, he's not even on the front lines of the battle with the Philistines in the beginning of the story.

Lots of time just happens to go by as God sets David up for success.  The same is true for us.  We have to wait and trust God to do what He needs to do when He needs to do it.  

God prepares us for what is ahead.  He connects us with the right people and resources.  He gets our heart in shape for His purposes.

David knows the GIANTS in our lives and the details that define them are no match for God.

45 David said to the Philistine, “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied...

47 All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves; for the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give all of you into our hands.”

There are little steps and giant leaps we are all called to take for God, both of which place us in His mighty and graceful hands.

In Christ, we can be sure that the best things in life are worth the wait.  

A prayer for today-

Dear God,

Thank You for the new life I have in Christ.  Thank You for filling me with Your Holy Spirit and Your purpose.

Help me to serve You in all things, little and big.  I know that it's by Your hand and Your grace that I am able to succeed.  

Be with me, Lord, and work out the details, like You did for David, as I face this call in my life that is on my heart today______________________________.

In the name of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit I pray,

*This post is part of A Mind-Maker-Upper's Everyday Reading Project.  Click here to read more.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

1 Samuel 12-14

Saul is in full swing as Israel's king in 1 Samuel 12-14.  God chooses him, but Saul seems to let God take a back seat during his forty year reign.  I have a feeling, it's going to catch up to him in the end.  Already, we read through several mistakes.  Saul impatiently makes burnt offerings to God instead of waiting on Samuel.  He also makes several irrational vows to God that aren't good for God's people, and it almost costs his son, Jonathan, his life.  Saul ignores Samuel's warnings to let God rule in his life and over Israel.  His pride creeps in and gets in the way as he justifies doing things his own way.

Saul has this amazing opportunity from God, and he's blowing it.  It's easy for me to say this on the outside, in hindsight.  And, if I am honest, I have to admit that there have been times I have done the exact same thing.  You know, I've blown it for myself.

There's a lesson in Saul's story.  I found the heart of it in this verse...

24 But be sure to fear the Lord and serve him faithfully with all your heart; consider what great things he has done for you.

Saul shows us today that our spiritual health is directly linked to our ability to make good decisions in our lives.  

If we are disconnected from God, if we don't take time to remember and think through all He has done for us, our faith becomes broken little by little.  The effects build, and we are ineffective in living out God's best for us.  God's call becomes impossible before we know it because we forget the source of our blessings.  

We mistakenly take matters into our own hands instead of going to God first to nurture our hearts, our minds, and our souls with His direction and His peace.

As believers, we can breath a sigh of relief that we can learn from Saul.  He reminds us to take time, regularly and intentionally, to CONSIDER all the great things GOD has done for us up to the present time.  

We can face our lives full of joy because we have a Savior, full of mercy and grace, who is Lord and King of our lives, always working things for good and His glory.

A prayer for today-

Dear God,

Thank You for being my King.  I want You to rule over all the affairs of my life.

Forgive me for all the ways I take matters into my own hands instead of handing them over to You from the start.  

I praise, You Lord, for all the amazing things You have done for me.  I am especially grateful for the way you have ______________________.

I trust You and Your direction.  Help me know the way You need me to go in all situations.

In the name of Jesus I pray,

Grace and peace,

*This post is part of A Mind-Maker-Upper's Everyday Reading Project.  Click here to read more.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

1 Samuel 9-11

In 1 Samuel 9-11, we meet a tall guy from the tribe of Benjamin named Saul, and Israel's wish for a king comes true.  Samuel, the prophet, knows that a king is not the real answer for God's people, but God hears their prayers and makes it happen.  God uses lost donkeys to get Saul right where He needs him, with Samuel.  It's a divine appointment for sure.  Saul is anointed king of Israel, and he is another example of how God uses unlikely characters for lead roles in His bigger story.

Saul's story seems so random; but as I read, I know that God has one of His amazing plans in the works.  God's own people are rejecting Him as they cry out for a king; yet, God is going to use their cries for a greater good.

Saul has an encounter with God through Samuel, and it changes him.

As Saul turned to leave Samuel, God changed Saul’s heart, and all these signs were fulfilled that day. 10 When he and his servant arrived at Gibeah, a procession of prophets met him; the Spirit of God came powerfully upon him, and he joined in their prophesying. 11 When all those who had formerly known him saw him prophesying with the prophets, they asked each other, “What is this that has happened to the son of Kish? Is Saul also among the prophets?”

God is in the business of transforming hearts, and we see that happen for Saul. The Holy Spirit is with Saul, and people can't help but notice the difference it makes in his life.  God's heart work in us becomes visible on the outside, to those around us.  

All of this "work" God is doing is brought about through His divine appointments.  Though things may appear to be random and coincidental, they are not.  I love when that happens, when we follow God's "tugs" on our heartstrings to step beyond what we would normally do.  Because when we do, when we surrender to the "tugs" on our hearts, we can feel God's presence, and His Spirit moves us to do incredible things we could never dream of doing on our own.  

How about you?  Have you ever had an experience like Saul's?  Has God ever used something random, like donkeys, to get you right where He needs you?

I'd love to hear...

A prayer for today-

Dear God,

Thank You for guiding me to You with Your divine appointments and including me in Your purposeful plan.  Thank You for filling me with Your Holy Spirit and getting me right where You need me.

Forgive me for getting side-tracked by the busyness of my day to day life and focusing way too much on unimportant details.  Transform my heart to feel Your tugs and hear Your voice.  I want you to be my GPS, Lord.

I especially need the power of Your Holy Spirit as I discern Your will concerning ______________________.

You are my Mighty Counselor and my Savior, Lord.

In the name of Your Son, Jesus, I pray,

In Christ's love,
*This post is part of A Mind-Maker-Upper's Everyday Reading Project.  Click here to read more.


Monday, March 24, 2014

1 Samuel 5-8

The Philistines have stolen the ark of God from the Israelites (God's chosen people), and they try putting it Dagon's temple in 1 Samuel 5-8.  It turns out, that wasn't such a good idea.  The Lord makes His presence and power known among the Philistines, and it's clear that God is not happy with them.  Wherever the Philistines try to put the ark of God, God brings devastation to the people.  So after seven months, the Philistines realize they need to return the ark with a guilt offering for God.  Samuel steps in to intercede for the Israelites by helping them repent and return their hearts back to God.  And by the end of 1 Samuel 8, the Philistines have left the Israelites alone, and God's people are asking for a king to rule over them despite Samuel's prophetic warnings.  There's a lot going on in God's country!

The Israelites go through rough times with the Philistines in today's reading.  It seems to take these rough times to open the Israelites' hearts to our loving God.  Samuel steps in and calls them to "clean up their act," so to speak, and repent.  Not only does he want them to confess their sins verbally, he wants them to get rid of all the "things" they have been "worshiping" instead of God.

The Israelites have been in this terrible cycle for a while now.  They turn their hearts away from God, lots of bad things happen and they become miserable, and then they come crawling back to God in repentance.  God is there for them every single time they willingly give Him their time and attention.

In the middle the Israelites' struggles, Samuel reminds all of us, as Christ followers, how important it is to hold onto our faith every single day, to keep on giving our hearts and minds to God, no matter what else is going on around us, no matter what everyone else is doing.

12 Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen. He named it Ebenezer,[a] saying, “Thus far the Lord has helped us.”

Recognizing our constant need for God's help and following His will are true and trustworthy game changers in this life we are living.  It was for the Israelites, and it is still that way for us today.

A prayer for today-

Dear God,

Thank You for forgiving my sins and saving me through Your Son, Jesus.  Transform my heart each day with Your powerful love.  I want to hold on to my faith and follow You.  

Where do you need me to go for You today?  What do you need me to do?  Who do you need me to reach?  Show me Your way.  

You are my real help, my Rock, and my Redeemer.  

In the name of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit I pray,

Peace of Christ,

*This post is part of A Mind-Maker-Upper's Everyday Reading Project.  Click here to read more.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

1 Samuel 1-4

We meet a faithful guy named Samuel today in 1 Samuel 1-4.  Israel is still having some trouble following God, but not Samuel.  His mother, Hannah, prayed for him way before his birth, and she selflessly hands him over to Eli, the priest, so he can spend his life serving the Lord.  Israel is defeated by the Philistines, and the nation loses much more than the battle itself.  The Ark of the Covenant is stolen, and Eli and his two immoral sons die.  It's a bad day to be an Israelite.

The part of today's reading that I want to think through is God's call to Samuel.  

It's a day in time when God isn't heard much.  We read that there "were not many visions."  Samuel is in God's house, resting, right near the Ark of God.  God calls Him several times.  Samuel doesn't recognize God's voice at first.  He mistakenly attributes it to someone else.  God doesn't give up though.  God is persistent with Samuel.  

10 Now the Lord came and stood there, calling as before, “Samuel! Samuel!” And Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant is listening.”

Like Samuel, I think God calls each of us.  We are blessed because, as believers in Christ, the Holy Spirit is always with us.  We do not have to be inside the tent of meeting, near the Ark of God.  And, we don't have to be a priest for God to speak to us and direct our lives.  

The possibilities for serving God are endless.  God knows us.  He knows our talents and gifts because He is the creator that shaped us with His hands.  He doesn't give up on us, even though we have a hard time hearing Him as we go about our daily schedules.

I think the key to hearing God is discovering our own Godly sweet spots** in the world.  As believers, we all have a Godly sweet spot or two.

How does God call You?  Where and when do you feel closest to God?

**For more on finding your Godly sweet spot, feel free to read "My Wake Up Call."

A prayer for today-

Dear God,

I thank You for sending Your Holy Spirit to dwell in me so that You are always with me.  Bless me, Lord, with a heart that is always connected to Your voice.

I want and need to hear Your voice in all the matters of my life.  I especially need to hear Your guidance for me concerning ___________________.  "Speak, for your servant is listening."

I pray this prayer in the of Your Son, my Savior, Jesus,

In Christ's love,

This post is part of A Mind-Maker-Upper's Everyday Reading Project.  Click here to read more.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Ruth 1-4

I am thankful today that we get to dive into the book of Ruth (1-4).  It's a breath of fresh air during Israel's rocky time of Judges.  We meet Naomi.  She has lost her husband and her two only sons.  She returns home to Bethlehem after living in Moab for a while to escape famine.  She would have been all alone if it weren't for her faithful and loving daughter-in-law, Ruth.  The two of them have a special bond.  And together, with God's help, they grieve and make the best of a really bad situation.  We are able to see God's hand at work through Ruth and Boaz.  The two cross paths and end up getting married and having children.  Their life together becomes part of King David's family line, another one of God's big and purposeful plans.

This story has so much good going on despite tragedy.  Our loving God of hope has a purpose and a plan.  I can't help but notice that His timing, His meetings, His settings are no accident.  They are divine appointments.  That's powerful to realize.

When we keep our hearts open to God (even in the face of hardship and loss), He is able to use acts of kindness as a catalyst for transforming our lives with His redeeming grace.  

Look at Ruth.  Her life is no coincidence.  It's full of divine providence, and it seems to be very dependent on her willingness to love kindness despite her pain.

10 “The Lord bless you, my daughter,” he replied. “This kindness is greater than that which you showed earlier: You have not run after the younger men, whether rich or poor. 11 And now, my daughter, don’t be afraid. I will do for you all you ask. All the people of my town know that you are a woman of noble character.

How about you?  Have you ever looked back and realized that God blessed you with a divine appointment?  Did kindness have anything to do with it?  

A prayer for today-

Dear God,

I thank You for guiding me and blessing me with divine appointments.    Help me to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with You so that I can live in Your great purpose for my life.

In the name of Your Son, Jesus, I pray,

Grace and peace,
*This post is part of A Mind-Maker-Upper's Everyday Reading Project.  Click here to read more.


Thursday, March 20, 2014

Judges 19-21

Disturbed.  That's how I feel after reading Judges 19-21.  The story begins with a Levite and his mistress who are on their way back home.  They stop to get some rest, and a local man (a Benjamite) from the hill country of Gibeah, takes them in for the night.  Some local hoodlums, looking for trouble, want to rape the Levite man, but he offers them his mistress instead.  She is brutally raped and murdered.  And if that wasn't horrendous enough, the Levite decides to cut her body up into twelve pieces and send them out to the 12 tribes of Israel.  It's disgusting, and that's how the book of Judges ends.

Now, I am sitting here not sure what to do with this story.  My heart is heavy.  I know there's a God saving message in this awful mess.  But what?

And I realize, this heart wrenching story of evil is just like the ones that fill our news channels night after night.

Then, I come across that same verse again, the one from yesterday's messiness.  God's Word for me, repeats itself.

25 In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as they saw fit.

There are so many gruesome details, so many things that are so obviously wrong in the story today.  It makes me sick.

I know why people find themselves wondering "Where is God?"

And I just want to scream loud enough for the whole world to hear, "HE'S RIGHT HERE LONGING FOR OUR TIME AND ATTENTION!"

He says, “Be still, and know that I am God..."

A prayer for today-

Dear God,

Thank You for Your saving grace that is available to me for eternity through Your Son, Jesus Christ.  Keep my heart open and humble to You and Your love.  I pray You will continually guide me in all the ways I need to come to You in repentance and reliance.

In the name of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit I pray, 

In Christ's love,

*This post is part of A Mind-Maker-Upper's Everyday Reading Project.  Click here to read more.