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Showing posts with label Samuel. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Samuel. 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.

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.