Sunday, March 15, 2015

The Story 12: When You Cast the Storm (Psalm 51)

Can you imagine your life having grown up on the lake? You are out there, the wind too choppy for the sails to work, so you must sail the boat to safety. You’ve been at it for hours. The lightning flashes allowing you to see an aberation coming towards you, a man walking on water. As the lightning shows him slowly getting closer, you noticed that he’s bid you to come out to him. How far do you make it? Do you walk 10 feet, or 20 feet? Then you remembered the storm that has been working against you. Before you know it, you’ve plunged into the water, overwhelmed, wishing to be able to breathe. 
Yet not all storms will be of natural makings. More times than not, the storms we face are from factors we have little to no control over, such as the shift in the economy, or the actions of others, or even mistakes you’ve made. How we respond to such storms defines, or reveals, our true character.
Let me tell you about one man-made storm nearly 2500 years ago. He was a man who had a hard youth. He joined the military much younger than normal, 14 or 15 years old, barely a teen. Before long, he is the object of the people’s affection. He will be king one day. He will be lauded. 
Yet sin was crouching at his door, waiting. How would he respond? I use to think until rather recently that David didn’t go to war with his army because in 2 Samuel 21, he almost fell to the sons of Goliath so his men said that he should never again be on the battlefield. Then I realized that I had jumped forward in time, further along than when David cast his storm.
Sin often is the rod that is used to cast our storms. Speculating, but perhaps the sin was coveting what was not his, the 10th commandment. He saw someone who was wed to not just someone else, but wed to one who could be counted as a dear friend. But who can say no to the king?
He summoned her. She bore the fruit of his sin, so he summoned his friend home. When he would not unwittingly help cover his sin, Uriah was sent back to the front line, unwittingly holding his execution orders. He died, and the child was born. David wed Bathsheba. His storm was full strength.
Then came along Nathan. “There were two neighbors, one wealthy holding hundreds in his flocks and herds, and one who had a sole lamb that he would harvest the wool from a couple of times a year to help make ends meet. In turn, the poor man kept his sheep as a dear pet, even allowing it inside the house. But when a traveling friend came to visit the rich man, he hosted the friend by taking and preparing the poor man’s lamb. The poor man’s family was devastated. What should be done, O King?” 
“The rich man should be put to death!”  One really must put thought to what he or she says before he or she says it. Words are not so easy to swallow once given life and voice.  For Nathan accused him of being that rich man, and Uriah, the lamb. 
In the midst of the storm that David cast, he realized that he had stopped looking to God, that his sin is neck high threatening to either drown or choke him to death. This storm would cost him dearly. First, his newborn son would die. Then later, one of his other sons would commit the same sin, but publicly rather than in the cover of night as with David.
It is when he realizes that he was no longer focused on God that he wrote the 51st Psalm. It is a Psalm seeking forgiveness, a psalm of repentance. It is a psalm of hope, a psalm of healing. Let’s read it:

Be gracious to me, God, according to Your faithful love; according to Your abundant compassion, blot out my rebellion.  Wash away my guilt and cleanse me from my sin.  For I am conscious of my rebellion, and my sin is always before me.  Against You—You alone—I have sinned and done this evil in Your sight. So You are right when You pass sentence; You are blameless when You judge. 
Indeed, I was guilty when I was born; I was sinful when my mother conceived me.  Surely You desire integrity in the inner self, and You teach me wisdom deep within. 
 Purify me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.  Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones You have crushed rejoice.  Turn Your face away  from my sins and blot out all my guilt. 
God, create a clean heart for me and renew a steadfast  spirit within me.  Do not banish me from Your presence or take Your Holy Spirit from me.  Restore the joy of Your salvation to me, and give me a willing spirit. Then I will teach the rebellious Your ways, and sinners will return to You. 
Save me from the guilt of bloodshed, God, the God of my salvation, and my tongue will sing of Your righteousness.  Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare Your praise. You do not want a sacrifice, or I would give it; You are not pleased with a burnt offering. The sacrifice pleasing to God is  a broken spirit. God, You will not despise a broken and humbled heart

What do we learn from David’s prayer? Let’s talk about forgiveness. All to often, people are afraid to turn to God, believing that God will not forgive them their stupid choices. It’s easy to think that the incidental sin can be forgiven, but the willful one? David didn’t accidentally come across her. He skipped a campaign for her. David didn’t accidentally kill Uriah, but deliberately executed him. His focus was so far off God that a year had passed. But even then, God forgave him. 
Now God’s forgiveness should never be mistaken for escape from consequences. No. David will still have those. But here is what he did, according to Psalm 51, to receive the forgiveness.

He asked for forgiveness and grace.
Now after all these things, David turns to God. He seeks forgiveness. He does so with a humility, not from an attitude that it’s a given that God will forgive him. 
This also includes confessing and owning your sins. This is harder in that as much as we our sins seem to affect others, Uriah his life, for example, sin affects our relationship with God. Our purpose is to worship him, to be in fellowship with him. Yes, sin in my life will affect others, just as sin in your life does. But this, David is saying, that we are His children, and holiness on our part is for Him, not for our spouses, our children, our bosses, or even neighbors. Sin ultimately is rupturing our relationship with our Heavenly Father.

He sought God’s help.
Some would call this the petition part of prayer. Here he is seeking to be renewed, to be different from the sinner he just saw. He wants to refocus on God alone. He doesn’t want to lose the Holy Spirit in a time that not all people had the Holy Spirit. But because he was the Lord’s anointed, like Saul, he realized that he did have the Holy Spirit. He realizes that if he continued on, he would risk losing that blessing.

He promised to praise. 
Then he would rejoice in the Lord, telling others of his marvelous wonders. In a way, this overlays nicely with the model prayer we pray each week. It started focusing on God as David confessed. Then there was the petition, give us our bread, forgive us, and deliver us. Then the praise.
Can it be so simple to return back to God? If you are in Christ, yes. Absolutely. Paul told the Romans how he struggled with sin constantly. He would tell them that if we are clothed in Christ, then God sees us pure, blameless, as if our sins never happened, as long as we trust him, turning them over to him.
And thanks to Christ Jesus, not only has he redeemed our souls with his sacrifice, but he’s given to us this Holy Spirit to help us, to guide us.
Now allow me to warn here. The author of Hebrews says that there will be a point that if we continue to be willfully sinful, that there will be a time that repentance will become impossible. But for today, if you are truly wanting to return to God, or if you need to come to God, then this is that time for you. 
It is as simple as returning your focus back to Jesus, regardless of how the storm rages around you. 

Monday, March 9, 2015

Goalie Extraordinaire

Yesterday, it seemed to be a bit of a grandiose, perhaps even narcissistic, claim on my part. It was posted in comment to a video that a friend shared, and then I shared. It’s an easy video to find. Google, ‘Scott Sterling Goalie’, or just click here.  Here is the story of why I would say that my claim is not grandiose.

As a youth, my parents wanted my brother and I to try sports. All of the sports. Thankfully, my love of sports allowed me to escape the grid-iron for peewee football and I lacked coordination and size for basketball. So by junior high, I had 2 seasons of Babe Ruth Baseball, 2 seasons of wrestling, and the start of 6 seasons of soccer. I really loved soccer.

Unfortunately, the same coordination that is needed for basketball is also needed for soccer. I started, like all kids, wanting to make the score. I tried forward, center and wings. I wasn’t great. Dribbling the ball with my feet was difficult back then, though today I can with ease, as I discovered while coaching. So the coach decided to work my way back.

As half-backs, I still had to do some dribbling, and a bit more passing to the forwards. I had a few passes intercepted. So back I went. Coach Montoya of the John Deere Bucks,  tried me for a game at fullback.  Surely all I need to do was stop the ball so the half back, or goalie can retrieve the ball. Then I moved over to the bench.

Yep, I would spend the next season and a half playing bench jockey. I would play the minimal when the coach thought my damage would be inconsequential, if we were losing or if we had such a lead that I possibly blow it. Sometimes in dire emergencies, like a boy failing to show up for the game, I would find more play time.

I forget the name of the second team I played bench jockey. It was the Allstate Bulldogs led by Coach Watson. He tried to work with me, to help me overcome the reputation for being a poor player. Yet nothing could help. I just ran too stiffly. I moved too gangly, and sometimes just too slow to make a power play.

Then the second game happened. The goalie twisted his ankle and the backup was home sick. This forced to coach into a hard pressed decision. He needed a goalie, but he also needed the second sub to be able to fill in relief for the other positions. Which risk would he take? Hope that the team can keep the ball away from the goalie, or put in someone who is decent all over the field and lose the offense?

He took a gamble and hoped that his offense and even defense could keep the ball from the goalie’s box. His gamble failed. The other team’s offense was on fire. 5 times, they moved the ball past the defenders to the goalie. Five times, the goalie stopped that ball and moved it back out. (Why none of my coaches thought to try me here, who knows?)

You see, the rules for the goalie are TOTALLY DIFFERENT than the rules for the rest of the team. The rest of the team can pass the ball using only their feet, heads, legs and torso. Use of shoulders was iffy because a “hands” call will be heard if the ball hits too low on the arms. The ball can only be dribbled using one’s feet. For the goalie, stop that ball by ANY MEANS necessary. Use any manner to move the ball. I’ve even dribbled the ball like a basketball while waiting for my offenders to get into position. It was a game changer for me.

I no longer had to use my feet to dribble the ball. I could pick it up if it was in the backfield. I could even charge offenders when they stepped inside my box. Kick me? That’s a penalty! I was brutal. I dove on that ball. I kissed that ball. I caught that ball. I punted that ball.

Since the preferred goalie twisted his ankle, he was out, and I was in. In the course of time, the goalie I replaced became my backup. For the next 3 season, counting most of the first season, I would play goalie until I aged out at 17. In that time, the ref has pulled me for medical concerns, or the coach as, so I can tend my mouth (I would use my face to stop the ball, and I didn’t allow my braces to hold me back.)

Now as I enjoyed recalling my journey to being a goalie, I am first and foremost a preacher. I look for spiritual applications, spiritual life lessons as I walk this life. And being the goalie, there is a life lesson.

Goalies are odd ducks because we are not required to play by the rules. We have a different set of rules. We love it. As a Christian, I noticed that there is more than one set of rules. The world has the rules of do what pleases you, as long as you are happy, until it infringes on someone else’s happy. If that happens, do what pleases you and not get caught infringing on someone else’s happy.

The Christian has this rule, “Consider others better than yourself” (Philippians 2.3).  In a world where selfishness reigns supreme, we are called to be different. We are called to put others’ needs first, because in reality, that is what God did for us. He put our needs first.

You see our need is to be in fellowship with our Creator, our Heavenly Father. (This is our greatest need despite the lies that we’ve concluded to be truth because we’ve heard them for so long.) But because of our sinfulness, God sent His Son, Jesus, to pay our penalty for our sins.

When we accept that gift, when we are clothed in Christ, that’s our game changer. That’s when we start living a life with a new set of rules summed up, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind. And likewise, love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22.37).

To think about that, those aren’t really rules. But that is our game changer. Let us live any means necessary to love God and to love our neighbor. (Perhaps I’ve been too oft hit in the head with the football.)

Sunday, March 8, 2015

The Story 11: The Problem of Time 2 Samuel 24.1-10

Time has a problem, in that it is a creation given for us to measure. It is a commodity to utilize, a resource that is far too often wasted. Time is relative. Some seem to have more time, and others have less. Yet we all have the same 24 hours in the day, the same 7 days in a week. I remember when I was in school, it took forever for the clock to strike 3.15. Yet now it seems hard to fathom that 19 years has passed since I met Carol, or that in five days, my youngest turns 3.  I am told that time flies even faster the more time that you spend.

And yet, there is an exception to how time flies. For example, you are waiting for something. You are waiting for an answer to a prayer that is pressing on you. You ask when. One of the biggest prayer concerns we had was having children. Several years passed before we started having children. Now hopefully we are finished. That is a new prayer I have. And though most of my friends from college have already sent their eldest off to college, or marriage, mine is still in Junior High.  But that is enough down this rabbit trail. Yet consider, what is your pressing concern for which you are waiting?

It causes me to wonder What David thought as he waited for the Lord. After all, Saul was rejected king, and David was anointed king. At some point in the history to come, David will ascend the throne of Israel after King Saul. We know that from 1 Samuel 13.1, and 2 Samuel 5.4, that both Saul and David were 30 years old when they became king. We know that David was most likely a teen, perhaps all of 14 or 15 when he fought Goliath, after he was anointed king. Saul had been king approximately 27 years when David slays Goliath and joins Saul’s court.

That is 15 years of waiting. During this time, David becomes the hero of Israel. He slays a man that made the mighty King Saul quake in fear. The women sing of Saul’s deeds, but then sing of how David is 10 times the man. It makes me wonder if Saul recounted Samuel’s words, “God is giving your kingdom to a man far better than you.”  Even Jonathan, the heir apparent became fast, dear friends with this hero.

It comes to a point that during a time that David is providing ambiance for the king, the king tried to kill David. David ends up on the run from the king. Here he is, waiting for God to establish him on the throne, and the king he’s vowed to serve, Saul, still the Lord’s anointed, is now his enemy.  Now we are to our text of 1 Samuel 24.1-10. Read with me: 

After Saul returned from pursuing the Philistines, he was told, “David is in the Desert of En Gedi.” So Saul took three thousand able young men from all Israel and set out to look for David and his men near the Crags of the Wild Goats. He came to the sheep pens along the way; a cave was there, and Saul went in to relieve himself. David and his men were far back in the cave. The men said, “This is the day the Lord spoke of when he said to you, ‘I will give your enemy into your hands for you to deal with as you wish.’ ” Then David crept up unnoticed and cut off a corner of Saul’s robe. Afterward, David was conscience-stricken for having cut off a corner of his robe. He said to his men, “The Lord forbid that I should do such a thing to my master, the Lord’s anointed, or lay my hand on him; for he is the anointed of the Lord.” With these words David sharply rebuked his men and did not allow them to attack Saul. And Saul left the cave and went his way. Then David went out of the cave and called out to Saul, “My lord the king!” When Saul looked behind him, David bowed down and prostrated himself with his face to the ground. He said to Saul, “Why do you listen when men say, ‘David is bent on harming you’? This day you have seen with your own eyes how the Lord delivered you into my hands in the cave. Some urged me to kill you, but I spared you; I said, ‘I will not lay my hand on my lord, because he is the Lord’s anointed.’

As you can see, our text still has David waiting to become king.  He will once again flee Saul and he will even go to the Philistines to hide out. Several more years will pass before Saul and even Jonathan will lose their lives in battle against the Philistines. 

Yet it is what he does while he is waiting for the Lord to fulfill His promise. And in case I didn’t emphasize it clearly, he waited. He was given Saul’s life twice. And 1 Sam 24.10, David said that it wasn’t his place to strike the Lord’s anointed. Since the Lord anointed Saul, the Lord will remove Saul. Even when an Amalekite brought news to David of Saul’s death, David rewarded him by having him struck down immediately.” By your own mouth, you condemn yourself.”

David took opportunity to serve and learn. As a teen, he wasn’t prepared to be Israel’s king. He wasn’t the son of a king like Josiah was who ascended the throne at the age of 8. No, David was a mere shepherd. Yet after his victory over Goliath, Saul kept David around. He became part of Saul’s court. He rose in rank as a commander and leader in the army.

And while fleeing Saul, David becomes a bit of a peacekeeper. His troops take to defending the people against raiding parties that were a constant annoyance to the Israelites. At one point, during the rescue of Ziklag, where David and his men and their families were residing, some of his men became too exhausted. He bid them to stay with the supplies while the rest of his army went after the Amalekites, which means Saul lied and didn’t quite destroy them as he claimed.  But to those who stayed with the supplies while the rest went after the raiding party, some of the trouble makers wanted to cut them from their share, just return families, but forfeit any recovered belongings. David showed grace, and said those who stayed with the supplies are equal to those who fought. This is not to mention his time becoming a statesman with his gift to elders. David grew and utilized the time as he waited.

So we come now to our take home. God has given us a wondrous promise. He has promised us that if we clothe ourselves in Jesus, accept Jesus’ sacrifice for our sins so that we can call God our heavenly papa, then we will have eternity with our Father. Someday, the trump will resound and the clouds will be rolled back like a scroll, and it will be well with our souls. Yet this promise seems far in keeping. We wonder when Jesus will return whereas the world believes “if” Jesus will return. The question becomes: how shall we conduct ourselves? 

Let me start off with a political statement. Jesus fulfilled the purpose of Israel. Israel was the physical shadow of the Church. I do not see that Scripture teaches that God will work through Israel to reveal further His plan or will for us. What greater revelation can Israel bestow after the Savior of the world, our Lord Jesus? 

Yet with news that is happening, such as the largest Islamic army in Africa has sworn allegiance yesterday to ISIS, thus making an even larger danger. Israel is one of those nations that is being threatened. As a statesman, Israel has been the USA’s biggest ally in the Middle East, and often, our only ally. As a Christian, David set the example, we should not curse or act against the Lord’s Anointed.  Let us pray for Israel, for the threats that they face, that even our Christian brethren face in the Middle East and now Africa. Let us pray that they come to accept the Messiah, as we pray for those nearer us to make the same decision.

Another take home here is with our time. It really is two-fold. Just as David prepared to lead Israel by first serving the king, and serving in the military, so we need to be about preparing. We need to be learning not just what the Word says, but also how to apply it, how to live it. We need to be in fellowship with one another. 

David didn’t flee alone, nor did he patrol alone. He had his mighty men. We are not alone either. God has given to each of us one another. We have times of fellowship, we have times to study. Yet we should also seek out each other apart from when the building is open. We should be encouraging one another, which leads us to the second part of this take home, and our final lesson.

Perhaps with the news, the Church of America may increase in her sense of urgency. It is unclear how long we have. Yet Jesus said that as long as it is still called today, we must be about the work of our Heavenly Father. We must be about the business of offering peace, grace, and love to those who don’t know Christ. We need to share the news that we have, to let people know that regardless of what is in a person’s past, or even present, God still wants them to draw near. Our Heavenly Father wants a relationship with them. 

This is why we were created. This is why Jesus died for us and then rose from the dead. And this is the only hope there is in the face of all that we see, in the darkness of this world, the senseless violence and selfishness. And He’s trusted this mission to you and me while we wait for His return. 

Let me conclude the message by finish reading the end of 2 Peter 3: 

In keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells. So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him. Bear in mind that our Lord’s patience means salvation, just as our dear brother Paul also wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him. He writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction. Therefore, dear friends, since you have been forewarned, be on your guard so that you may not be carried away by the error of the lawless and fall from your secure position. But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

The Story 10 A New Spirit

This past week’s study, we considered 2 who had faith to stand strong, and 2 who didn’t. It was the faith of Hannah, who trusted that God would provide for her, would grant her a child. She was a barren woman in a time where having children was a mark of God’s blessing. Yet in the midst of her storm, of her family shaming her, she still trusted, even promising to return her child to the Lord. She not only kept her promise but was blessed with the birth of 3 more sons and 2 daughters.

It was her first child who serves as the other example of faith. When he was returned to the Lord, he served under the first who failed. Eli was the high priest and judge over Israel, but he had two sons who perverted the offerings and worship of God. Though Eli failed to parent his sons, he happened to raise Samuel, perhaps. Perhaps Samuel, one dedicated to the Lord, had an open heart to listen for the Lord. And heard the Lord he did.

Even after God sent to Eli a warning, Eli didn’t heed the warning. Even when the warning was wet cement through Samuel’s calling in the middle of the night, the night where Samuel mistook God’s voice for Eli’s. Again, there was the warning. Eli thought, “well God will do what He will do.” It is tragic when God gives warning, and we fail to see the opportunity.

Eli had opportunity even after the prophet, and even after the Lord talk to Young Mister Samuel. Perhaps it would not have been so tragic had Eli implored God, if he had repented and removed his sons. Yet we can’t play the “what if” game. 

Samuel’s accomplishment was that he turned the people back to God once Eli and his sons were gone. He relied and talked to God. God talked to him in turn. Perhaps Samuel wasn’t too different from Moses. Samuel served God so full heartedly that when the nation Israel asked for a king, he took it as a personal rejection. Perhaps there was some truth. As a father figure, he was akin to Eli. Samuel’s sons were also wicked judges, taken to bribery and favoritism. 

God reminded Samuel that it wasn’t himself that was rejected as leader, but the people, despite the awesome ways that God displayed the deliverance of the enemies into Israel’s hands, the people were rejecting God as their king. That’s the accomplishment Samuel had. He anointed two kings for Israel. First, he anointed Saul, then he anointed David after Saul fell. This morning, we will look at King Saul. 

Hopefully, you are already at 1 Samuel 10. Let’s read: 
Then Samuel took a jar of olive oil and poured it on Saul's head, kissed him, and said, “The Lord anoints you as ruler of his people Israel. You will rule his people and protect them from all their enemies. And this is the proof to you that the Lord has chosen you to be the ruler of his people: when you leave me today, you will meet two men near Rachel's tomb at Zelzah in the territory of Benjamin. They will tell you that the donkeys you were looking for have been found, so that your father isn't worried any more about them but about you, and he keeps asking, ‘What shall I do about my son?’ You will go on from there until you come to the sacred tree at Tabor, where you will meet three men on their way to offer a sacrifice to God at Bethel. One of them will be leading three young goats, another one will be carrying three loaves of bread, and the third one will have a leather bag full of wine. They will greet you and offer you two of the loaves, which you are to accept. Then you will go to the Hill of God in Gibeah, where there is a Philistine camp. At the entrance to the town you will meet a group of prophets coming down from the altar on the hill, playing harps, drums, flutes, and lyres. They will be dancing and shouting. Suddenly the spirit of the Lord will take control of you, and you will join in their religious dancing and shouting and will become a different person. When these things happen, do whatever God leads you to do. You will go ahead of me to Gilgal, where I will meet you and offer burnt sacrifices and fellowship sacrifices. Wait there seven days until I come and tell you what to do.” When Saul turned to leave Samuel, God gave Saul a new nature. 

It is here that I want to focus this morning. God gave Saul a new nature, and new spirit, a new heart. And what did that new nature afford him? If you follow along in The Story by Max Lucado and Randy Frazee, they label Saul as being a jealous, impatient and impetuous man. I disagree. I believe that along the way, he’d forgotten God, he’d forgotten what his obligation to God was. He became impatient, impetuous, and jealous. For now, he had a new heart.

When he is selected king of Israel, at the coronation, he is found in the luggage, or in the supply wagon, hiding. He did start off with a humility. Yet by the second time he was to go to Gilgal and wait 7 days, for he was 30 the first time, and the time in which God said his line will see the end of the kingship, his son, Jonathan, was already a skilled warrior and commander. 

Saul wanted to do what was right. After his coronation, the Ammonites rose up to make war. They besieged a city and offered terms for the city’s inhabitants. We will accept your surrender if you allow us to blind your men, taking their right eyes. Of course they had 7 days to see if anyone would come to their rescue. So when Saul heard that his people were under attack, the Spirit of the Lord came upon him, like the Spirit did for Samson. He raised an army, 330,000 men came to Saul’s command. Yet, Saul didn’t go this alone. His command was in his and Samuel’s name. He relied on Samuel as a spiritual advisor, a leader skilled on the battlefield, a mentor, if you will.  In this, he shows wisdom.  And God blessed him. He delivered the city, and the coronation was reaffirmed. But that would also be the last Samuel stayed with Saul. He was now king.

Saul became accomplished on the battlefield. And I think that is where his pride started coming into play. Before long, the Amalekites were creating trouble and God’s time of reckoning was at hand. Moses had written down God’s future judgment for these people because they not only denied passage through their lands during Israel’s wilderness sojourn, but they raided. God, through Samuel, told Saul to totally destroy them. Kill everyone, kill everything. Saul did, mostly. Instead, he spared the king and the best of the cattle for “sacrifices”, plunder but was caught. After Samuel confronted Saul, Saul went to grab for Samuel to plead that Samuel still remain, Samuel’s cloak ripped. “Just as you have ripped my cloak, so the kingdom will be ripped from you and handed to a man far better than you.”  

As I read that passage, 1 Samuel15, Saul stopped following God. Despite his new heart, it grew cold. Saul referred to God as Samuel’s God. Saul, in Carmel, had set up a shrine dedicated to his own glory. He was a god. But he took the king of the Amalekites and the best of the livestock to Gilgal, where he proudly boasted to Samuel of his obedience.

So what is the application to us today? When you were clothed in Christ, when you were baptized into Christ, do you realize that you were given a new heart? If you are in Christ, you are now a different person than you were before, or at least you should be. You are not just different, you are new. 

According to Paul’s 2nd letter to the Corinthians, we are new creations. Our old nature is gone. He goes on to say in the same passage that God has reconciled us through Jesus, which is why we are new. Think about that for a moment. We are reconciled through Jesus’ blood, and are therefore made new. We are declared spotless, pure, according to Romans.

Do you realize what this means? We live in a world that is hurting, that is dying, we have the answer to the big question that everyone is asking in their own vocabulary. What is the purpose of life?  God wants a relationship with His creation. That is you and me, and our lost neighbors, family and friends. Coming back to our Heavenly Father is our goal in life, despite what the world tells us. And we have that answer. Shouldn’t we be trying to persuade those close to us, be it close in our hearts or close to our homes, about getting right with God?

Another take home, unlike Saul upon whom the Spirit of God came, we have been given the Spirit of God, the Holy Spirit when we clothed ourselves in Christ. And that Spirit is mighty. And that Spirit can strengthen us, if we allow it. Consider the Scripture reading earlier. Do you know that you are a holy people with an eternal hope and inheritance? Do you pray that the Spirit will work mightily through you? We have that same power that raised Jesus from the dead living flowing in us.

That verse, Ephesians 1.19 continues to be a “whoa” verse. I have to pause every time that I read it. That we may know... the his incomparably great power that He has for us who believe. 

Ah to know that. How? That is the awesome blessings of living in fellowship with one another. It comes from spending time in the Word. It comes from living for God. Living for God, there is a short list in 1 Thessalonians 5. The longer list is Proverbs, the whole book. Then there is following Paul’s example from Ephesians. Prayer. 

Now for the invitation. This is as much for us here as those who will hear this message on the internet. The reason we are following The Story is because from the beginning of Creation, He has wanted a relationship with you and me. But we now live in an imperfect world brought that way by our sins. Still through Jesus, the reconciliation was paid. Last week we considered Isaiah 55.6, that we can call upon the Lord and he will hear, we can seek the Lord and He will draw near. Now is that time. Come, talk to me. As long as you have breath, our Heavenly Father wants to be yours too, or even again. Let’s now sing our song of prayer.