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Showing posts with label David. Show all posts
Showing posts with label David. Show all posts

Monday, November 1, 2021

Biblical Ghost Stories

For Halloween, I want to share some ghost stories from the Bible.  Halloween is the abbreviated word for what was originally All Hallows Eve.  Halloween is the night before All Hallows Day, what we call All Saints Day.  Therefore, tomorrow is All Saint’s Day.  And next Sunday, we will celebrate Homecoming and All Saints Sunday (the first Sunday in November).  I hope you will come.  All Saints Day is the day Christians remember and celebrate the lives of the saints who have died and gone to be with the Lord.  Since Methodists believe all Christians, believers are saints, “the saints” includes your friends and loved one’s who have “died”.  I use the word “died”, because it is the customary word people use to describe what happens when our earthly body stops living.  However, Christians do not believe people really die when our heart stops beating.  We believe Christians have eternal life through Jesus.  Therefore, we believe when the body dies, the spirit leaves the body and goes to be with Jesus.  2 Corinthians 5:8 says, “…to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.”

All the saints—Christians who’s earthly bodies have died—are now with Jesus, cheering us on as we live this life (Hebrews 12:1).  One Day, Jesus will come again to judge the living and the dead and give us all a new, perfect body.  We will not be spirits or ghosts.  We will be real people, with a physical body, only it will be perfect—without sin or sickness or suffering or death.  It will be an eternally living body, just like Jesus had.  We will be like the resurrected Jesus.  Listen to this story about the resurrected Jesus and his physical body.  After Jesus had died on the cross, he rose from the grave and appeared to his disciples in a physical body.

Luke 24:36-40
And just as they were telling about it, Jesus himself was suddenly standing there among them. “Peace be with you,” he said. 37 But the whole group was startled and frightened, thinking they were seeing a ghost!

38 “Why are you frightened?” he asked. “Why are your hearts filled with doubt? 39 Look at my hands. Look at my feet. You can see that it’s really me. Touch me and make sure that I am not a ghost, because ghosts don’t have bodies, as you see that I do.” 40 As he spoke, he showed them his hands and his feet.

The Resurrected Jesus Was Not A Ghost
So we see in this, that the resurrected Jesus is not a ghost.  He has a body.  They can touch him.  He can walk.  He can even eat.  Verse 42-43 say, “They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he ate it as they watched.”

Aren’t you glad to know that we will not be ghosts in eternal life?  We will be living people with a perfect body.  We are incredibly blessed indeed by what Jesus did for us on the cross.  His death and ressurection changed everything.  He truly defeated death.  For all who put their faith in Jesus have eternal life.

We are so incredibly blessed by what Jesus did for us on the cross.  Because of His death and resurrection, we can have eternal life.  And we can know this directly from God.  God speaks His unchanging truth to us in His Holy Bible.  Not only that, but God also came to us personally in the flesh as Jesus Christ to live on earth and teach the way to life.  Jesus left the glory of Heaven and came to earth to call everyone to repentance and salvation.  Everything we need to know God and how to be saved is written in the Bible.  But if that wasn’t enough, Jesus even died and came back to life and showed himself to His disciples to prove He is the way, the truth, and the life.  No one comes to the father, but by Him. (John 14:6)

In ancient times, people tried to hear the voice of God through witchcraft and sorcery.  They used black magic to try and conjure up the dead. God told His people, “Do not defile yourselves by turning to mediums or to those who consult the spirits of the dead. I am the Lord your God.” (Leviticus 19:31).  God didn’t want His people to rely on witchcraft and frauds who take money, put on a spooky show, and pretend to hear ghosts.  If some spirit did speak to the living from the dead, how would you know if you could trust it?

God said, “I am the Lord Your God.”  God speaks to His people directly through the prophets and priest He has authorized to speak for Him.  They don't speak for money; they serve the Lord.  In the Bible, we see that if ever these priest or prophets were unfaithful, they were punished by God.  Therefore, we can depend upon the Word of God.

1 Samuel 28:5-7
In 1 Samuel 28, King Saul broke God’s command and consulted a medium to conjure up the ghost of Samuel.  Saul was desperate because God rejected him and was tearing the Kingdom from Saul to give it to his rival, David.  1 Samuel 28:5-7 says, “When Saul saw the vast Philistine army, he became frantic with fear. He asked the Lord what he should do, but the Lord refused to answer him, either by dreams or by sacred lots or by the prophets. Saul then said to his advisers, “Find a woman who is a medium, so I can go and ask her what to do.”

So God played along and allowed Samuel’s ghost to speak to Saul and the ghost said, “The Lord has done just as he said he would. He has torn the kingdom from you and given it to your rival, David.” (1 Samuel 28:17).  God had already told this to Saul when the Samuel was alive.  God already spoke, but Saul didn’t like the message.  Isn’t that just like people?  When we hear a truth we don’t like, we go looking for someone else to tell us something different.

Well, you don’t have to consult a ghost to tell you what you need to know.  God has already told you in the Bible.  And if there’s anything else you need to know, God gives us His own Holy Spirit to be our guide.  However, it requires you to put your faith in Christ, that you follow Him as Lord, and give Him your full allegience.

Jesus told a parable to teach that everything we need to know the truth about God and the way to eternal life is written in the Bible, but many people still will not listen. 

Luke 16:19-26
Jesus said, “There was a certain rich man who was splendidly clothed in purple and fine linen and who lived each day in luxury. 20 At his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus who was covered with sores. 21 As Lazarus lay there longing for scraps from the rich man’s table, the dogs would come and lick his open sores.

22 “Finally, the poor man died and was carried by the angels to sit beside Abraham at the heavenly banquet. The rich man also died and was buried, 23 and he went to the place of the dead. There, in torment, he saw Abraham in the far distance with Lazarus at his side.

24 “The rich man shouted, ‘Father Abraham, have some pity! Send Lazarus over here to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue. I am in anguish in these flames.’

25 “But Abraham said to him, ‘Son, remember that during your lifetime you had everything you wanted, and Lazarus had nothing. So now he is here being comforted, and you are in anguish. 26 And besides, there is a great chasm separating us. No one can cross over to you from here, and no one can cross over to us from there.’

“There Is A Great Chasm Separating Us”
We see in this a description of the afterlife.  Those who are faithful find grace, forgiveness, and salvation in Jesus Christ and are rewarded with peace and comfort in the presence of God.  These are the saints we remember and celebrate on All Saints Day.  Those who reject God in this life suffer eternal torment and separation from God.  And there is a great chasm in the afterlife that cannot be traversed that separates the faithful from the unfaithful.

Luke 16:27-29
“Then the rich man said, ‘Please, Father Abraham, at least send him to my father’s home. 28 For I have five brothers, and I want him to warn them so they don’t end up in this place of torment.’

29 “But Abraham said, ‘Moses and the prophets have warned them. Your brothers can read what they wrote.’

The Bible is Sufficient
Here we see an important truth.  Everything we need to know to find eternal life with God in Heaven is already written in the Bible.  “Moses and the prophets” are the books of the Old Testament.  Are you reading and studying this Book? Are you listening and living accordingly?

Luke 16:30-31
30 “The rich man replied, ‘No, Father Abraham! But if someone is sent to them from the dead, then they will repent of their sins and turn to God.’

31 “But Abraham said, ‘If they won’t listen to Moses and the prophets, they won’t be persuaded even if someone rises from the dead.’”

Jesus Rose From the Grave
“If they won’t listen to Moses and the prophets, they won’t be persuaded even if someone rises from the dead.”

And yet, just in case, as an extra measure of abundant mercy and grace, God did indeed send someone back from the dead in order to make sure we get the message.  What did Jesus say?  What was His message?  He said, repent of your sins and be forgiven.  “Unless you repent, you will perish.” (Luke 13:5).  And He said, “Follow me and be my disciple.” (Luke 5:27).  And He also said, “Go and make disciples of all the nations…” (Matthew 28:19).

In the parable, rich man was concerned after he died and was in torment about his five brothers who were still alive.  He wanted someone to warn them.  Who do you have in your life you want to be saved?  You better tell them about Jesus now while you still can.

So, in closing, what do you need to do today?
Do you need to hear Jesus message, while you are still alive, saying, “Repent of your sins and return to God”?  Do not delay.  Get your heart right with God today.

Do you need to make a commitment to Read God’s Word, the Bible, more faithfully?  If you want to hear God speaking to you, if you want to know what you should do and how you should live, it is all written here.  You don’t have to consult a ghost from the past.  You don’t need a fortune teller to tell you the future.  You need to read and listen to the Word of God in the Bible and obey.  God will be your guide and you can trust Him and Him alone.

The saints are in glory with God cheering you on (Hebrews 12:1).  They want you to succeed.  But you must decide how you will live your life today.  Only you can choose. 
So make your choice.

As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.

Monday, December 14, 2020

Epochs of Israel - The Epoch of the Kings

It is such a privilege to be a pastor.  I don’t know why God called me into ordained ministry, but I am so honored and thankful that He did.  And I am grateful to each person who allows me to speak God’s Word to them every week and to share in their important moments of life, to pray them, to encourage them, and to hope for God’s best for them.  Being a pastor has been one of the greatest blessings of my life.

God chose me to be a pastor.  It feels good to be chosen for this special purpose.  Today, I want you all to know, God has chosen you for a special purpose too.  I want to share that with you today.  But to help you recognize just how special it is, we must first recall some important history.  I hope you will stick with me to the end, so you can fully appreciate how special God’s personal message is for you.  Will you try? 

To review that history of Israel, we used the following responsive reading at my church. 

Pastor:  The Lord our God is mighty to save! He rescued Israel from Egypt through 10 plagues that proved Egypt’s idols were nothing. 

People:  At Mount Sinai, The Lord gave 10 commandments and the Law to teach Israel how to live and worship.

Pastor:  The Lord led Israel to conquer Canaan, a land flowing with milk and honey.

People:  The Lord fought for Israel and they took possession of the Promised Land.

Pastor:  During the epoch of the Judges, Israel did not have a king like the other nations. God was Israel’s King.

People:  But the people sinned and did whatever seemed right in their own eyes.

Pastor:  When Israel was unfaithful, their enemies oppressed them.  Then Israel would cry out to God for help.

People:  God showed mercy and raised up judges to fight and rescue Israel.

Pastor:  The people wanted a king like all the nations around them, but God was supposed to be Israel’s King.

People: “Anoint for us a king!” They cried. “Someone who is tall and mighty!”

Pastor:  So they anointed Saul to be the first king of Israel because he stood head and shoulders above the rest.

People:  But God was not pleased with Saul, because his heart was not right with God.

All:  And so the third Epoch of Israel begins—The Epoch of the Kings.

1 Samuel 16:1, 6-13

1Now the Lord said to Samuel, “You have mourned long enough for Saul. I have rejected him as king of Israel, so fill your flask with olive oil and go to Bethlehem. Find a man named Jesse who lives there, for I have selected one of his sons to be my king.”

When they arrived, Samuel took one look at Eliab and thought, “Surely this is the Lord’s anointed!”

But the Lord said to Samuel, “Don’t judge by his appearance or height, for I have rejected him. The Lord doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

Then Jesse told his son Abinadab to step forward and walk in front of Samuel. But Samuel said, “This is not the one the Lord has chosen.” Next Jesse summoned Shimea, but Samuel said, “Neither is this the one the Lord has chosen.” 10 In the same way all seven of Jesse’s sons were presented to Samuel. But Samuel said to Jesse, “The Lord has not chosen any of these.” 11 Then Samuel asked, “Are these all the sons you have?”

“There is still the youngest,” Jesse replied. “But he’s out in the fields watching the sheep and goats.”

“Send for him at once,” Samuel said. “We will not sit down to eat until he arrives.”

12 So Jesse sent for him. He was dark and handsome, with beautiful eyes.

And the Lord said, “This is the one; anoint him.”

13 So as David stood there among his brothers, Samuel took the flask of olive oil he had brought and anointed David with the oil. And the Spirit of the Lord came powerfully upon David from that day on. Then Samuel returned to Ramah.

Israel’s Leadership Structure
There were three major roles in biblical Israel’s leadership structure.  First, there was the prophet.  The prophet's job was to speak to the people for God.  Usually when people think of a prophet, they think they were someone who told the future.  However, that wasn't the prophet's core function.  The prophet told people whatever God said.  Sometimes, God told prophets to tell people what was going to happen in the future.  But more often than not, God told the prophet to share commands, instructions, warnings, or consolations.  At any rate, the prophet's purpose was to ell people whatever God told the prophet to say.

The second role in Israel's leadership structure was the priest.  The priest's purpose was the opposite of the prophet.  The priest spoke to God for the people.  So for example, if someone had sinned as was sorry for it, they might go to a priest and the priest would make a sacrifice and speak to God on the person's behalf asking God to forgive them and heal them and restore them to a harmonious relationship with God.

The third role was the king. The king's purpose was to unite everyone in Israel in a common goal. In the beginning of Israel's history, they didn't have a earthly king because everyone accepted God was Israel’s King.  However, as Israel sunk deeper and deeper into sin, they followed God less and less as their King and they were more and more disunified in their common goal.  Israel's common goal was to bring light into the darkness of the world and healing into brokenness of our world. God told Israel's ancestor, Abraham, “All families on earth will be blessed through you.” (Genesis 12:3). Israel was supposed to bless the whole world. The greatest blessing was that they would reveal the one, true God to a world who was lost in sin and worshiping false gods. Exodus 19:6 says of the nation of Israel, “You will be my kingdom of priests, my holy nation.”  As a holy nation of priests in a dark and broken world, Israel was to bring spiritual healing, reconciliation, and peace to the whole world.

God chose Israel to show all the nations around them how to be in a right relationship with God.  They were to be the model everyone should copy.  But instead, Israel wanted to copy all the nations around them.  And soon they wanted an earthly king to lead and united them and make them "great" like all the other nations around them.

To be fair, you can’t bring light and healing if you are constantly being dominated by your enemies. Or can you? Consider Jesus dying on the cross while his enemies taunting him.  Unless you are a history expert, you probably remember the names of very few kings.  But almost everyone knows the name Jesus.  Jesus changed the whole world by dying on a cross while his enemies cursed him.  Jesus changed the world.  What a strange way to change the world!

However, God allowed Israel to have an earthly king as part of their leadership structure; but the king was only a figurehead to represent God to the people.  God was to continue to be Israel's true King.  That is why God chose David.  Scripture says David was a "man after God's own heart" (1 Samuel 13:14).  So with David on the throne, it was as if God's own heart was on the throne of Israel.

The Chosen Ones
Have you ever been rejected for something you really wanted or needed?  Most people are familiar with the scene of kids gathered around on the school playground at PE.  Two team captains go the kids and pick people to be on their team.  They usually select the strongest, fastest, most athletic kids first and nobody wants to be the last kid picked.  Were you ever the last kid picked?  Or were you ever passed over for a job or a promotion?

When I first graduated from college with a degree in textile engineering, I was ready to begin my career and I really needed a good job.  You see, I'd just learned my wife was pregnant and we had no money and have no insurance.  I was getting a lot of job interviews for great companies, but no job offers were coming.  Then a company in North Carolina invited me up for an interview.  I thought it was really promising because they invited me and my wife up and even put us up in a hotel for the night.  And I though, "If they're going to all that trouble, they must really be interested" So we drove up and spent the night at the hotel and the next day I got up and went in for the interview.  I was talking to the manager and things seemed to be going well until another candidate arrived.  He was taller than me and he had played college football for Clemson and the manager was a huge Clemson fan.  And from that point on, I was just along for the ride.  The manager was obviously in love with the other job candidate and I was just chopped liver.  So I wasn't too surprised when I was notified a few days later that I didn't get the job.

I'm glad I didn't get that job; my life could have gone in a very different direction if I'd moved to North Carolina to work.  I eventually did get a good job in Griffin, GA so I could take care of my young family and that eventually led me down the path to be a United Methodist minister.  I am very happy with my life as it turned out. But at that moment as a young 23-year-old, soon-to-be father, it was irritating to be rejected for what seemed like very shallow reasons.

That's why I'm so glad God doesn't see us the way other people see us.  1 Samuel 16:7 says, “The Lord doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” 

God chose Israel to represent Him to the world. God chose David to be their king. But I want to tell you something that’s critical to your life, right now, today. God chose you.

God chose to save you.  Imagine if you will a scene that probably happens in most family households at some time or another.  A husband and wife are decorating their Christmas tree for the holidays.  They've been together for 25 years of happy marriage and raise wonderful kids who have all left home.  As they decorate their tree, they find it is cluttered with too many ornaments.  Many of them are ornaments their kids made over the years at church and school.  They're not that impressive and they weren't made from the highest quality materials to start with.  One is made from popsicle sticks, another is macaroni art, one is just some construction paper with a child's illegible scribbles in crayon.  What made the ornaments special was who made them. It's been decades since some of these old ornaments were made and they are faded and torn, most of the macaroni is missing off the one.  The parents sigh and decided, "All the kids are grown and we have too many ornaments for the tree.  It's time to decided which ornaments we're going to save and which ones to throw away."  Even so, it will be a hard job to throw away that macaroni ornament little Johnny made at preschool when he was three.

This scene can serves as an illustration for the way God sees us.  We are all precious to God. Maybe you are a little broken or worn out. Most of us have lost a few noodles over the years.  And the fact is, we weren't made from the highest quality materials to start with.  What made us special was who made us.  God made us, but now we've got some serious flaws and imperfections.  

And then 1 Samuel 16:7 reminds us, “The Lord doesn’t see things the way you see them… the Lord looks at the heart.”  We are all like God's Christmas ornaments.  We are precious to Him, even if we're broken or worn out.  And as God looks at each of us, He choses to save all of us.  He's not going to throw any of us away.  God chooses to save you if you will choose to stay with Him.

Second, God chose to save you for eternal life.  He says, "I'm never going to throw this one away.  I will always keep and cherish this one, because he or she is precious to me."  And so, if you put your faith in Jesus Christ, God will save you and you will be with Him for all eternity.

Third, God chooses to to make you whole.  If He finds we are worn out, He revives.  If we are broken, He mends.  When we realize we weren't made from the highest quality material to start with, God transforms us to pure gold. 

Lastly, God God chose you to represent Him. As an ornament is placed upon a Christmas tree to represent something special, God placed you in His world to represent Him to everyone.  1 Peter 2:9 says, “You are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light."  

Notice the words this Scripture uses to describe you.  You are holy.  That means you are set apart for God's very special purposes.  You are royalty--kings and queens in God's eternal Kingdom.  You are priests.  Remember, a priest helps bring spiritual healing, reconciliation, and peace to the whole world. 

Listen, you are so special to God, He was already thinking of you when He led the Israelites out of Egypt. He delivered them from slavery so you could be delivered from slavery to sin and death. God was thinking of you when He chose David to be the king of Israel.  Jesus, the Savior of the world, came from the royal lineage of David. This is why I had to go through all the history of Israel, so you can see just how much forethought, preparation, and work has gone into God’s choice. God has been working for your salvation and restoration for thousands upon thousands of years.  That's how special you are to Him.

And now, the choice is yours. God has chosen you. Will you choose God?

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

God's Heroes Have Courage

As we think about Memorial Day, we remember and honor those who gave their lives to serve and defend our country.  They were brave and courageous men and women who did their duty even though it was tough and even scary.  Perhaps John Wayne described the meaning of courage best when he said, “Courage is being scared to death and saddling up anyway.” 
The brave men and women we remember on Memorial Day displayed great courage.  We could all use more courage.  Couldn’t we?  That’s what I want to share today as we consider the character of God’s heroes.  God’s heroes have courage.
            Last week we learned about a man named David that God anointed to be the king of Israel.  David, like all of God’s heroes, had a good heart.  In fact, the Bible says he was a man after God’s own heart.  And even though a man with a bad, disobedient heart named Saul was still king of Israel, David grew more famous.  King Saul became jealous and tried to kill David.  Since David was unwilling to fight against his king, he fled for his life taking a group of 600 faithful warriors with him.
            On a personal note, when my wife and I were choosing names for our third child, we wanted a Biblical name.  We liked the name Abigail, but I wanted to check to make sure the Abigail of the Bible was a good person.  (You don’t want to name your child after a bad person.)  I was delighted to find that the Abigail of the Bible was a very good, wise, and courageous woman.   Let’s look at her story together.  It is quite a long passage, but it’s worth the effort to read.

1 Samuel 25:1b- 39
Then David moved down to the wilderness of Maon. There was a wealthy man from Maon who owned property near the town of Carmel. He had 3,000 sheep and 1,000 goats, and it was sheep-shearing time. This man’s name was Nabal, and his wife, Abigail, was a sensible and beautiful woman. But Nabal, a descendant of Caleb, was crude and mean in all his dealings.

When David heard that Nabal was shearing his sheep, he sent ten of his young men to Carmel with this message for Nabal: “Peace and prosperity to you, your family, and everything you own! I am told that it is sheep-shearing time. While your shepherds stayed among us near Carmel, we never harmed them, and nothing was ever stolen from them. Ask your own men, and they will tell you this is true. So would you be kind to us, since we have come at a time of celebration? Please share any provisions you might have on hand with us and with your friend David.” David’s young men gave this message to Nabal in David’s name, and they waited for a reply.

10 “Who is this fellow David?” Nabal sneered to the young men. “Who does this son of Jesse think he is? There are lots of servants these days who run away from their masters. 11 Should I take my bread and my water and my meat that I’ve slaughtered for my shearers and give it to a band of outlaws who come from who knows where?”

12 So David’s young men returned and told him what Nabal had said. 13 “Get your swords!” was David’s reply as he strapped on his own. Then 400 men started off with David, and 200 remained behind to guard their equipment.

14 Meanwhile, one of Nabal’s servants went to Abigail and told her, “David sent messengers from the wilderness to greet our master, but he screamed insults at them. 15 These men have been very good to us, and we never suffered any harm from them. Nothing was stolen from us the whole time they were with us. 16 In fact, day and night they were like a wall of protection to us and the sheep. 17 You need to know this and figure out what to do, for there is going to be trouble for our master and his whole family. He’s so ill-tempered that no one can even talk to him!”

18 Abigail wasted no time. She quickly gathered 200 loaves of bread, two wineskins full of wine, five sheep that had been slaughtered, nearly a bushel of roasted grain, 100 clusters of raisins, and 200 fig cakes. She packed them on donkeys 19 and said to her servants, “Go on ahead. I will follow you shortly.” But she didn’t tell her husband Nabal what she was doing.

20 As she was riding her donkey into a mountain ravine, she saw David and his men coming toward her. 21 David had just been saying, “A lot of good it did to help this fellow. We protected his flocks in the wilderness, and nothing he owned was lost or stolen. But he has repaid me evil for good. 22 May God strike me and kill me if even one man of his household is still alive tomorrow morning!”
23 When Abigail saw David, she quickly got off her donkey and bowed low before him. 24 She fell at his feet and said, “I accept all blame in this matter, my lord. Please listen to what I have to say. 25 I know Nabal is a wicked and ill-tempered man; please don’t pay any attention to him. He is a fool, just as his name suggests. But I never even saw the young men you sent.
26 “Now, my lord, as surely as the Lord lives and you yourself live, since the Lord has kept you from murdering and taking vengeance into your own hands, let all your enemies and those who try to harm you be as cursed as Nabal is. 27 And here is a present that I, your servant, have brought to you and your young men. 28 Please forgive me if I have offended you in any way. The Lord will surely reward you with a lasting dynasty, for you are fighting the Lord’s battles. And you have not done wrong throughout your entire life.

29 “Even when you are chased by those who seek to kill you, your life is safe in the care of the Lord your God, secure in his treasure pouch! But the lives of your enemies will disappear like stones shot from a sling! 30 When the Lord has done all he promised and has made you leader of Israel, 31 don’t let this be a blemish on your record. Then your conscience won’t have to bear the staggering burden of needless bloodshed and vengeance. And when the Lord has done these great things for you, please remember me, your servant!”

32 David replied to Abigail, “Praise the Lord, the God of Israel, who has sent you to meet me today! 33 Thank God for your good sense! Bless you for keeping me from murder and from carrying out vengeance with my own hands. 34 For I swear by the Lord, the God of Israel, who has kept me from hurting you, that if you had not hurried out to meet me, not one of Nabal’s men would still be alive tomorrow morning.” 35 Then David accepted her present and told her, “Return home in peace. I have heard what you said. We will not kill your husband.”

36 When Abigail arrived home, she found that Nabal was throwing a big party and was celebrating like a king. He was very drunk, so she didn’t tell him anything about her meeting with David until dawn the next day. 37 In the morning when Nabal was sober, his wife told him what had happened. As a result he had a stroke, and he lay paralyzed on his bed like a stone. 38 About ten days later, the Lord struck him, and he died.
39 When David heard that Nabal was dead, he said, “Praise the Lord, who has avenged the insult I received from Nabal and has kept me from doing it myself. Nabal has received the punishment for his sin.” Then David sent messengers to Abigail to ask her to become his wife.
Why Was David Angry?
            David had some serious problems.  First of all, he was running for his life.  Even though David had done nothing wrong and had only been loyal and good to King Saul, the king was jealous and wanted to kill David.  So David was on the run.  He refused to fight Saul.  Even though David had several opportunities to kill Saul, He refused saying it was not right to kill Israel’s king.
            Another problem—perhaps just as big—was what to do with the 600 men who followed David.  These were not just any men.  These were fighting men.  They were ready to fight for David, but he would not let them fight.  How do you keep 600 fighting men out of trouble when they have nothing to do and are constantly on the run?  How do you keep them fed and provisioned?  David had an answer.  He decided to use them as an unofficial security force for Nabal.  This would give his men something productive to do and hopefully build good will with Nabal who might return the kindness to David’s men.
By worldly measures, Nabal was a great man. He was rich, powerful, and in charge of many people.  People look at outside appearance.  They see things like wealth and power and property and think that a person is good if they have all these.  However, God looks at the heart and we see that Nabal was a fool because he had a bad heart.  He was selfish, ill-tempered, rude and insulting, and a drunkard.
Nabal probably had a great year with his flocks.  There were always bandits out in the countryside willing to steal and plunder business men like Nabal.  Anyone today who has a lot of wealth and property understands if you’ve got a lot of stuff, you better have some good locks and maybe some security cameras to keep it all secure.  If you have a lot of stuff, there’s always plenty of people out there who will try to take it from you. 
It would have been the same for a man like Nabal, but David and his 600 warriors kept Nabal’s property and shepherds safe.  No bandit could steal from Nabal with David’s security force keeping everything safe.  As Nabal accounted for his extra profits that year, he should have realized his great fortune was due largely to David’s protection.  Less theft and losses in the fields meant greater profits at shearing time, but Nabal presumed all his prosperity was due to his own efforts.  He had no gratitude for David’s help in the matter at all.  Furthermore, he even insulted David—basically calling him a no count, run-away slave who deserved only scorn.
Now, David was a man after God’s own heart, but David was not perfect.  And we see in this instance, David let his anger get the best of him.  He was on the run from Saul, hungry, up to his ears trying to keep his loyal men fed and out of trouble.  All he’s done so far is try to do the right thing and now even the good he has done for Nabal has been ridiculed.  David has had it.  He’s going to kill Nabal and every man in his household.  Talk about an over-reaction!  Even a man with a good heart can lose it sometimes.  Our imperfect hearts get the best of us when we don’t let God’s Holy Spirit direct us.  David was not following God’s spirit and was about to commit a great atrocity. 

Abigail’s Courage
            Then we meet Abigail (the woman who is my daughter's namesake).  Abigail had a courageous heart.  When she learned of Nabal’s foolish behavior and the impending disaster, she gets right to work.  First of all, she took personal responsibility for Nabal’s foolish behavior. 
We might wonder at this.  It was Nabal who acted so foolishly, not Abigail.  However, Abigail knew her husband was prone to foolish behavior.  If that had been your spouse, you would probably be extra careful to watch what they did and keep them from dragging you down with them.  Besides, Abigail was sort of like second in command for the household.  So she was largely responsible for whatever happened in the household, even if it wasn’t directly her fault.
            At any rate, the tact she took with David was both courageous and brilliant.  It took courage, because it put her at great risk.  What if David decided to punish her, taking her life?  The cowardly approach would have been to place blame on others.  But Abigail chose to courageously accept personal responsibility.  Her actions were brilliant because her confession moved David to have mercy.
            People tend to respect us more when we take responsibility—even when we have made a mistake.  It only makes people angrier when you try to blame somebody else.  Think about the recent United Airlines incident where they dragged a passenger off a flight.  Someone videoed the altercation and it went viral.  Then United Airlines came out with an apology that wasn’t really an apology; it was not received well by the public.  People had the perception that the airline was not really sorry and was avoiding responsibility for their actions; it only made the public even angrier. 
When we make excuses, it only angers others, but when we take responsibility, we learn from our mistakes and others tend to respect us and be more forgiving.  It worked for Abigail.  David had compassion and showed mercy.
            Abigail’s courageous actions also helped David avoid a great sin.  Her words showed David what he was doing was wrong.  He was overreacting in a moment of anger.  Abigail’s courageous actions stopped David in his tracks and made him think about what he was doing.  It saved him from making a terrible mistake that would have hurt many people and ruined David’s reputation and destroyed his conscience. 

Our Precarious Condition
            Although this story took place roughly 3,000 years ago, it has another important application for us today.  It is a warning that we should not be fools like Nabal.  Although some would argue we would never act like Nabal, we do it all the time when we take our blessings for granted.
            Those of us who live in America think we have it pretty good.  We are relatively safe and secure.  No foreign nation threatens to invade us.  We are very prosperous.  Even the poor among us are vastly better off than the majority of the world outside our nation.  We have very little to worry about.  And if we aren’t careful, we will take it for granted.  We will forget those who have paid a tremendous price to win and secure our freedom and prosperity.  As we eat, drink, and are merry, we may be tempted to think we are the ones who have made our fortunes.  We might forget that God has been working behind the scenes in human events to bring us to where we are today—even blessing us with the opportunities we have as a nation and as individuals to prosper and live freely.  And yet, how often are we like Nabal—the fool—who rudely disregarded what David had done for him.  We disregard what God has done for us.  He sent his Son, Jesus, to die for our sins.  However, we rudely ask, “Who is Jesus?  What has he really done for me?  Why should I concern myself with him?”
            Meanwhile, because of our sin, we are in danger of eternal punishment.  Jesus came to our world once as a peaceful, helpless baby.  However, Jesus is coming again and this time he will come as a conquering King.  Like David, who strapped on his sword and came ready for war, Jesus may be strapping on his sword right now, along with all the mighty armies of heaven.  Jesus will come to destroy all those arrogant people who have rebelled and continue to rebel against the God of Heaven.
            So what will you do?  Will you go on like the fool, Nabal, eating and drinking and thinking everything is just fine while destruction fast approaches?  Or will you be like Abigail, who had the courage to rush out to find the king, fall on her knees and beg for forgiveness and mercy?  Will you plead, for yourself, for your family, for your community, for you country, for the world?  Or will you pretend like nothing is wrong?
            Don’t be afraid to plead with Jesus for mercy.  Have courage!  Accept responsibility for your sin.  Don’t blame someone else.  It’s your sin.  Own it!  And ask Jesus for mercy.  He will listen and he will forgive.  Jesus will accept you back as his loyal subject if you ask for forgiveness and repent of your sin.  And you will live with him in glory forever.
            I invite you to have courage today.  Get your heart right with Jesus.  And have the courage to warn others when they are going astray too.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

God's Heroes Have a Heart

            We are starting a new message series at my church based on our upcoming VBS curriculum “Hero Central”.  For each of the next five weeks, I will share a message based on the daily VBS themes about how we can be God’s superheroes.  The message today is about having a hero’s heart.
            If we're going to talk about a hero’s heart, we should start by defining what we mean by “heart.”  Obviously, we’re not talking about the muscle that beats in your chest and pumps blood throughout your body.  When we say heart, what we mean is “the essence of who you are.” Your heart is the core of who you are, your passions, your interests, who you really are as a person and what you’re made of.  Your heart is what you're dedicated to; what you would fight for, live for, and even die for.
God’s heroes have a certain kind of heart and the Bible tells us what kind.  I want to share a story about David—a person described as a man after God’s own heart—and we will see what kind of heart we should have to be one of God’s heroes.  But first, let me set the stage for the story.
The story comes from the Old Testament Book of Samuel, named after the prophet Samuel.  The people of Israel wanted a king like all the other nations around them.  So they asked Samuel to anoint a man named Saul to be their king. 
Saul was an obvious pick for king.  Saul looked like a king.  He was very tall.  The Bible says he was “head and shoulders” taller than everyone else.  So Samuel anointed Saul and he became Israel’s first King.  However, Saul had some serious character flaws.  He looked like a king, but his heart was not right.  He disobeyed God several times.  He was selfish and deceptive.  God was sorry He ever made Saul king.  So God told the prophet Samuel to anoint a new king to take Saul’s place.  And that’s where our story picks up. 

1 Samuel 16:1-13
1Now the Lord said to Samuel, “You have mourned long enough for Saul. I have rejected him as king of Israel, so fill your flask with olive oil and go to Bethlehem. Find a man named Jesse who lives there, for I have selected one of his sons to be my king.”

But Samuel asked, “How can I do that? If Saul hears about it, he will kill me.”

“Take a heifer with you,” the Lord replied, “and say that you have come to make a sacrifice to the Lord. Invite Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will show you which of his sons to anoint for me.”

So Samuel did as the Lord instructed. When he arrived at Bethlehem, the elders of the town came trembling to meet him. “What’s wrong?” they asked. “Do you come in peace?”

“Yes,” Samuel replied. “I have come to sacrifice to the Lord. Purify yourselves and come with me to the sacrifice.” Then Samuel performed the purification rite for Jesse and his sons and invited them to the sacrifice, too.

When they arrived, Samuel took one look at Eliab and thought, “Surely this is the Lord’s anointed!”

Notice here, that Samuel thinks Eliab would make a good king.  Eliab was the first born son of the family and he looked like a king.  Like Saul, Eliab was a taller than most men.

But the Lord said to Samuel, “Don’t judge by his appearance or height, for I have rejected him. The Lord doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

Then Jesse told his son Abinadab to step forward and walk in front of Samuel. But Samuel said, “This is not the one the Lord has chosen.” Next Jesse summoned Shimea, but Samuel said, “Neither is this the one the Lord has chosen.” 10 In the same way all seven of Jesse’s sons were presented to Samuel. But Samuel said to Jesse, “The Lord has not chosen any of these.” 11 Then Samuel asked, “Are these all the sons you have?”

“There is still the youngest,” Jesse replied. “But he’s out in the fields watching the sheep and goats.”

“Send for him at once,” Samuel said. “We will not sit down to eat until he arrives.”

12 So Jesse sent for him. He was dark and handsome, with beautiful eyes.

And the Lord said, “This is the one; anoint him.”

13 So as David stood there among his brothers, Samuel took the flask of olive oil he had brought and anointed David with the oil. And the Spirit of the Lord came powerfully upon David from that day on. Then Samuel returned to Ramah.

The Heart of a King
            The key verse in this passage is verse 7 - “People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” We can see what a difference heart make by comparing David to Saul.  Saul looked like a king.  He was head and shoulders taller than everyone else.  But he had a no heart.  In fact, the Bible story most people know is the story of David and Goliath.  Goliath’s most striking feature was he was a giant.  Goliath challenged the armies of Israel to choose one man who would face him in one-on-one combat.  The one man in Israel’s army who should have accepted the challenge was Saul.  He would have been the best choice.  Saul was a very tall man and a warrior.  He was the only one who could come close to matching Goliath physical stature.  But Saul didn’t have the heart to face Goliath.  The one who ended up fighting Goliath was the little boy David.  And David was so small, the Bible says he couldn’t even wear Saul’s armor.  Saul had an impressive physic, but David had heart.
            A study of David life reveals the heart of a hero.  He was brave, because he depended on God to fight his battles.  He was full of faith.  He believed God could overcome any obstacle and he was willing to wait on God to work things out in God's way according to God's timing.  David was compassionate, merciful, fair, and consistent.  When he made a mistake, David was quick to take responsibility, repent, and ask forgiveness.  David heart lead him to be faithful to the end of his days.  David had the heart of a hero.  The ultimate accolade the Bible attributes to David is this.  It says he was a man after God's own heart (1 Samuel 13:14).
            But that's why Samuel 16:12 is kind of confusing to me.  It seems out of place.  It says David was "dark and handsome".  Now, if this passage is about looking at a person’s heart and not their physical attributes, why would it mention anything about David's appearance?  Translators have struggled to translate that verse.  The key words that cause trouble is the Hebrew for "ruddy" and "countenance."  Ruddy can mean dark or hairy or red or other things.  The sense is that David was a rough, unrefined looking fellow.  It’s not that he was ugly, but maybe he didn't fit his society’s beauty standards.  My grandmother was a red head.  She used to say kids picked on her when she was in school.  They would chant, “I’d rather be dead than have a read head!”  Kids can be mean to other kids they see as different.  And most kids are either brunette or blonde; and the less common red headed kids often get picked on.  They don’t fit the norm.  Neither did David.
            But the scripture also says David had a good countenance—another word that’s hard to translate into English.  Have you ever known someone who was beautiful, even though they didn’t fit the typical beauty standards of society?  Maybe they were short or a little on the heavy side or had something else unusual about them?  They weren’t the kind of person you would see in a beauty pageant or the cover of a magazine, and yet something about them was especially attractive.  If you only looked at a 2-dimensional picture of them, you wouldn’t think there was anything special there.  However, when you meet them in person, there is just something exceptionally beautiful about them.  I've seen this often in very godly people.  Their godly hearts give them a beautiful countenance.
I think that is what verse 12 is trying to tell us about David.  He didn’t fit the typical standards of what a handsome man of the day was supposed to be (and obviously, his family didn’t think he was anything special; they didn't even invite him to the dinner).  And yet, David had a good heart, and it just exuded from him and made him handsome to anyone who was willing to look at his heart instead of just his physical appearance.   

It’s All About Your Heart
You can’t tell a hero by the way they look.  I love the way this is often portrayed in movies and comic books about superheroes.  Superheroes often have an alter ego.  Take Superman, for example.  He is handsome and muscular and “able to leap over tall buildings in a single bound” and yet in his everyday life he dresses as the unremarkable Clark Kent.  Clark dresses kind of nerdy and wears glasses.  Clark’s love interest—Louise Lane—hardly even notices him.  And it’s ironic, because Louise has the hots for Superman.  All the while, Clark (Superman in disguise) is right there beside her and she doesn’t even notice him.  You can’t tell a hero by the way they look.
We tend to focus on all the external things when we judge a person.  We look at things we think are good.  We say:  “They look good. They wear nice clothes.  They have a big house and drive a new car, so they must be good people.”  Or we think they fit in with everyone and are popular and everyone likes them, so they must be special.  We also look at things we think are bad.  We say, “That person is rough looking, drinks, has a bunch of tattoos, cusses a lot or doesn’t use proper English, wears the wrong clothes, drives a dirty car, etc…”  And so we think they are not a very good person.  We are focusing on all the wrong things when we look at these external factors.  It’s your heart that makes you a hero or not.
The core problem of humanity is the human heart.  In Jesus day, the religious teachers said if you ate the wrong food or didn’t wash your hands or touched someone who had leprosy or was unclean, it would make you unclean and sinful.  Jesus knew this was nonsense.  He said it is our hearts that make us sinful and unclean.  Jesus said in Matthew 15:19, “For from the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, all sexual immorality, theft, lying, and slander.”  Jeremiah 17:9 – “The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is?” 

We Must Focus on the Heart
So, we need to focus on the heart and worry less about all those outward things.  And remember what is your heart? It is the core of who you are; it is your character; it is your passion; it is what drives you and motivate you; it is what is most important about you; it is what you live for and what you would die for.  And most of us, if we are really honest, realize our hearts aren’t right.  Our relationship with Jesus isn’t really what’s most important in our hearts.  When we look at what consumes most of our time, money, energy, resources, and thoughts, it is not God and His Kingdom and His righteousness.  We focus on our own selfish pursuits or our families or our careers or our security or our politics…  Christ may be part of our life, but he is not first in our life.  And anything that takes first place in your heart besides Christ is a problem. 

Accepting Responsibility
We like to make excuses for ourselves.  We say “That’s just the way life is.  That’s how the world works.”  But that’s just an excuse.  Or maybe we try to blame our shortcomings and our bad hearts on things that happened in the past.  “You know, it was the way my parents raised me” or “It’s the abuse I suffered as a child” or “It’s because I was bullied in school” or “I have a chemical imbalance…”  You can insert your excuse here: ________________________________.
It’s time to take responsibility for your own heart.  Until you take responsibility for your heart, you will never change.  You have to accept responsibility. It was not your parents' fault.  It is not the social class you belong to. It's not where you grew up.  It is not the way you were mistreated as a child or anything else. If you are not living up to God’s potential, if you are not living as a hero for God, it is because you have a sinful heart.  It is the Human Condition. And we must recognize this, confess it, and cry out to God for salvation! That is the only way. For as long as we continue to make excuses for ourselves we will never get to the heart of the matter and find healing for our heart. You will never become the hero God wants you to be until you admit your heart is broken.

Closing Invitation
            The Good News is Jesus came to give us a brand new heart.  If we will confess our sin, repent, and ask for help, Jesus will save us and give us a brand new heart--a hero's heart.  He said, “I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart.” (Ezekiel 36:26) 
Is that what you want?  Do you want to be one of God’s heroes?  A hero that has a heart just like God’s?  Then why don’t you ask Jesus to give you one today.  I offer the following prayer to help you talk to Jesus about getting a new heart.  Let it be your words to Him today. 

Dear Jesus, forgive me for the ways my heart has not been right. 
Regardless of what I’ve done on the outside, the core of who I am has been off.
I have not loved You with my whole heart.  I have not loved my neighbor as myself.
I have not always put you first in my heart.  Please forgive me. 
Help me to turn from my wicked ways.  I want to have good heart, a hero’s heart.
Jesus, please give me a new heart and put a righteous spirit within me.
Help me to live for you whole heartedly from this day forward.
Thank you, Jesus.  Amen.