Know that it is good

Now Saul heard that David and his men had been discovered. And Saul, spear in hand, was seated under the tamarisk tree on the hill at Gibeath, with all his officials standing around him. Saul said to them, “Listen, men of Benjamin! Will the son of Jesse give all of you fields and vineyards? Will he make all of you commanders of thousands and commanders of hundreds? Is that why you have all conspired against me? No one tells me when my son makes a covenant with the son of Jesse. None of you is concerned about me or tells me that my son has incited my servant to lie in wait for me, as he does today.”

1 Samuel 22:6-8 (NIV)

This sounds like the rant of a madman. It is the rant of a madman. Jealousy can be a powerful motivator. Saul saw David as a great threat to his rule over Israel and sought to destroy him. He allowed his jealousy, anger, and rage to consume him. Instead of ruling the nation as he had been anointed to do, Saul took his best men and went running around the countryside seeking to kill the man who had once been the only one who could calm him.

David, on the run, had long ago been anointed as the next king of Israel. The present king was doing all that he could to prevent David from ascending the throne. At one point, David had ample opportunity to take Saul’s life, and thus, the throne. His men would have followed him that day in the cave had David chosen to relieve Saul of his life while Saul relieved himself. But that would have made David just like Saul.

Saul had once been an honourable man. Anointed as king over Israel, he started off well, but soon took matters into his own hands rather than leaving them in God’s hand. God had already taken his anointing from Saul’s familial line. David, the man who chased after God’s heart, would be the start of a line of royalty that would not only last for generations, but for eternity.

But all of that could have easily been cast away had David chosen to kill Saul instead of trim his robe. David took the path of humility over the path of vengeance. Just one of many instances that earned him the eternal bloodline.

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 lift my hand against my master, because he is the Lord’s anointed.'”

1 Samuel 24:9 (NIV)

David’s faithfulness and his haste to repentance when he wasn’t so faithful allowed God to continue to work through him. By continuing to seek the Lord rather than pursue his own desired, God was able to make Israel great and, eventually make a way to save the whole world. David’s obedience and faithfulness to God far outlasted his own lifetime. It spared many generations to follow—all the way to Jesus, who came to save all generations.

Just as David could not fathom all that God had planned for his lineage, we cannot even begin to understand the plans God has for us. We can live in the moment and take the path of least resistance, or we can live for the prize God has set before us.

I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 3:14 (NIV)

That prize that Paul was talking about is our green card, our citizenship in heaven. I can guarantee that there will be opportunities to take the easy way—like Saul in the save before David—but I can also guarantee that there is another way. We can’t know all that God has planned for us and how it will affect the generations to come. But we can trust in His plan and know that it is good.

Read: 1 Samuel 22-24, Luke 16:1-18

Teach. Pray.

It is our duty as believers to pray for one another and to pray for the Church. Prayer is good and it is right, but it cannot take the place of teaching.

Near the end of Samuel’s life, he has a heart-to-heart with Israel. He’s been their spiritual Father for many years. He’d made his fair share of mistakes. So had Israel. But at this point in time, Israel was on the road to repentance. What Samuel really wanted to do at times was walk away from them as a parent might wish to walk away from a belligerent child who just can’t seem to learn his lesson. But because the Lord was faithful to Israel, Samuel would be, too.

He encourages the people to set aside all idols and worship God alone. He tells—he teaches—Israel the right way in going about life as God’s chosen people. Prayer is all fine and good, but if someone is never taught the right way to do something, their chances of getting it right are slim. In addition to praying for them, Samuel chose to tell Israel what to do.

As for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord by failing to pray for you. And I will teach you the way that is good and right. But be sure to fear the Lord and serve him faithfully with all your heart; consider what great things he has done for you.

1 Samuel 12:23-24 (NIV)

And he prayed that God would help them to do what is right.

Train a child in the way he should go,
and when he is old he will not turn from it.

Proverbs 22:6 (NIV)

Obedience and faithfulness must first be taught. To neglect teaching it to remain ignorant and immature.

Then we must pray that those lessons we have learned take root and grow and become fruitful. Once we learn what God says and how He says it, our prayers allow us to hear His voice so that He can continue to train us in the way we should go.

Read: 1 Samuel 10-12, Luke 13:22-35

It’s in the past

There is a scene in Disney’s The Lion King where Rafiki, a baboon, swats Simba, a lion, on the head. When Simba asks what it was for, Rafiki responds, “It doesn’t matter, it’s in the past!” He goes on to say that you can either run from the past or learn from it. In Joshua, Israel chooses to set up a memorial so that the generations to follow could learn from the past.

These stones are to be a memorial to the people of Israel forever.

Joshua 4:7b (NIV)

On significant occasions, Israel would often build landmarks or altars to commemorate what God had done for them. These stones would serve as a reminder to future generations of their rich heritage.

He did this so that all the people of the earth might know that the hand of the Lord is powerful and so that you might always fear the Lord your God

Joshua 4:24 (NIV)

Simba had to leave some things in his past, but he also had to remember the past so that he could lay hold of his inheritance—an entire kingdom. Sound familiar? Even after Israel took the Promised Land, they needed perpetual reminders of the fact that they were God’s chosen people, and of how they got to be where they were. Even the painful reminders of past sin would prove to be helpful for generations to come.

Like Israel setting up stones and Simba facing the hurt of the past, we can’t turn our backs entirely on our own history. In many cases, we need to celebrate it. If you needed to be rescued, celebrate and talk about the fact that God brought you out! If you were healed, speak of the Lord’s faithfulness. If you have been made whole, share it with the world.

I will sing of the Lord’s great love forever;
with my mouth I will make your faithfulness know through all generations.
I will declare that your love stands firm forever,
that you established your faithfulness in heaven itself.

Psalm 89:1-2 (NIV)

How is the present generation to know of God’s goodness and faithfulness if the previous generation never speaks of it? Our sin is in the past, but God’s love, mercy, and grace endure forever—through all generations. We need to speak of these things and celebrate them as well.

How then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”

Romans 10:14-15 (NIV)

If you need to erect a monument to commemorate God’s goodness, go for it. If you need to share your story, do it. If you want to sing a song of praise, go ahead. Just don’t keep it to yourself!

Read: Joshua 4-6, Luke 2:1-24

The God of my father

Read: Genesis 31-32, Matthew 10:24-42

My grandfather was a pastor. For nearly my entire life, he was my pastor. That is, until he died.

Called to the ministry long before he entered it, he had an anointing to heal. People from all over were drawn to his charisma, his grand personality. He was a strong man in ideals and in faith. When he passed away, another minister preached—yes, preached—at his funeral. A room full of people from every facet of his life, both from church and work, heard this pastor speak of the mantle that would now be passed on. Like Elijah to Elisha, the anointing of Papa’s ministry would pass on, but not just to one person. It would spread. The foundation that he laid would not go to waste. The ceiling of his ministry would become the floor for those who would follow in his footsteps.

What is the significance in those who have gone before us?

All through the Bible, God is referred to as the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Israel). It was recognised that the men who had gone before had a certain relationship with God. It was generational. And it was important to remember.

…the God of your father…

Genesis 31:29 (NIV)

If the God of my father, the God of Abraham and the Fear of Isaac…

Genesis 31:42 (NIV)

Genesis 31:53

“O God of my father Abraham, God of my father Isaac…”

Genesis 32:9 (NIV)

In two chapters of Genesis, there are no less than four examples of God being referred to as the God of a generation passed. Why?

Because God made promises to Abraham and to Isaac. Over and over again, God had proven himself faithful to Jacob’s father and grandfather. In his persistent reference to the God of his fathers, he reminded himself of those promises and that faithfulness.

We may throw away many things from the previous generation, but one thing that should never be set aside is the faith—the God—of our fathers. I don’t for one second take for granted the spiritual foundation that my grandfather laid. I know that he prayed for every person in his family by name every day. He prayed for me. I know that his work and his prayers were not in vain. I know that the relationship with God that I enjoy today has a lot to do with the relationship he had with God while he still walked this earth.

If you are fortunate enough to belong to the God of your fathers, don’t take it for granted. Look into your heritage and see the promises and the faithfulness.

If you are the first in your line, lay the foundation for future generations. Be the Abraham in your lineage.

Let us never forget the God of our fathers.

Mark your moments

Read: Genesis 12-14, Matthew 5:1-26

Genesis 13:4

At significant moments in his live, Abram would build an altar. In the first few chapters of his story, he builds two and even returns to one. Abram built altars to mark the places where God spoke to or appeared to him. And where God spoke to him, Abram offered sacrifices and thanksgiving.

There are some things in life we should just forget about all together—faults and failures. But there are other things in life we should remember. When God speaks to us or when we have a moment of clarity or revelation, we should mark it. Like Abram, we may need to return to that place so that we can recall God’s faithfulness to us.

But aren’t we running a race? 

Yes, we are.

Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 3:13-14 (NIV)

We need to forget the things that would hold us back and remember the things that push us forward. A runner cannot forget all that he has learned in his training if he is going to win the race. And we cannot forget all that God has done for us if we want to continue running toward His calling. If we forget why we’re running, we will stop altogether.

We shouldn’t always be in a rush from one mountaintop experience to the next. There are valleys in between that we may need to walk through as well. And in those valleys, we should be able to look back and remember the heights from which we came. Those moments on the mountain, and sometimes in the valley, should be marked so that we can give thanks in the moment and look back to remember and gain the momentum we need to finish the race.

Stay free

It would seem that the Galatian church struggled—as many churches still do—with the concept of freedom, how it works and how it is to be applied to our lives. Being free from the law—receiving salvation as a gift rather than earning it through works—is a difficult concept to grasp. And, no matter how much revelation some people get, there always seem to be those who want to find a set of chains and shackle the Church back to the law.

So Christ has really set us free. Now make sure that you stay free, and don’t get tied up again in slavery to the law.

Galatians 5:1 (NLT)

How do I know when I’m getting tied up again? The answer is quite simple and you probably know it already.

But when the Holy Spirit controls our lives, he will produce this kind of fruit in us: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Here there is no conflict with the law.

Galatians 5:22-23 (NLT)

If you are being led in a direction that produces anything but these things, you’re being led back into the bondage of the law. The Holy Spirit will never lead you into anything that is based on works and produces selfish results. He will only lead you into things that produce good fruit with selfless results.

For you have been called to live in freedom—not freedom to satisfy your sinful nature, but freedom to serve one another in love. For the whole law can be summed up in one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

Galatians 5:13-14 (NLT)

So if you’re questioning where you’re being led, ask yourself a few simple questions:

  • Is this solely for my benefit or will others benefit from it?
  • Will this result in producing the fruit of the Spirit?
  • Does this reflect love for my neighbour? How so?
  • Am I serving myself or am I serving others?

In the end, our freedom is all about serving one another. If you’re not serving your neighbour—whether you like them or not—you’re not really free. There are no qualifiers on the love we are commanded to give. It’s not always easy and that’s why we need the Holy Spirit to guide us. If we are truly free and have nailed our own passions and desires to the cross (Galatians 5:24), we live by the Holy Spirit and must follow his guidance in every part of our lives.

Love your neighbour. Stay free.

Daily Bible reading: Isaiah 10-12, Galatians 5

Disappointed?

It’s a horrible thing to say, but disappointment is pretty much a part of life. I’m not sure anyone can get through life without someone letting them down, expectations not being met, or hopes fading. To think about it very long can become a disappointment in itself.

As the Scriptures tell us, “Anyone who believe in him will not be disappointed.”

Romans 10:11 (NLT)

Paul’s message to the Romans takes those thoughts of being let down and gives hope to the discouraged. Anyone who believes in him will not be disappointed. That’s not to say that life will become a bed of roses, but rather that God Himself will not be a let down to us. He will not disappoint those who truly believe and trust in Him.

Salvation comes from trusting in Christ—which is the message we preach—is already within easy reach. In fact, the Scriptures say, “The message is close at hand; it is on you lips and in you heart.”

Romans 10:8 (NLT)

Salvation, a relationship with God though Jesus, is not some vague, unattainable idea. It is here and now and it is for everyone—not just a select few.

For “Anyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

Romans 10:13 (NLT)

And if what God said was true thousands of years ago, it still stands true today.

No, I will not break my covenant;
I will not take back a single word I said.

Psalm 89:34 (NLT)

Faithfulness is your very character.

Psalm 89:8b (NLT)

For someone whose very character is faithfulness, it would be pretty difficult to be a disappointment. Even if life has let you down, God will not. He cannot. It is not in His nature to do so.

Your unfailing love will last forever.
Your faithfulness is as unending as the heavens.

Psalm 89:2 (NLT)

If disappointment has you down, take some time to focus on God’s unfailing love and unending faithfulness, the gift of salvation He has so freely given us. He is close. He is never far. Never failing. Never disappointing.

Daily Bible reading: Psalm 88-89, Romans 10

His purpose

I am surrounded by fierce lions
who greedily devour human prey—
whose teeth piece like spears and arrows,
and whose tongues cut like swords.

Psalm 57:4 (NLT)

What would your response be in this situation? Sounds like a great time to break out into praise and worship, doesn’t it? Hardly, but that’s what David does.

Be exalted, O God, above the highest heavens!
May your glory shine over all the earth.

Psalm 57:5 (NLT)

If not everything is going perfectly, if there is a hint of trouble, most of us would tend to believe that we are not within God’s purpose. Surely something has gone wrong, we’ve fallen out of grace and are bound for destruction. But think about this, if we were never in a position to get into trouble, would grace still exist? If everything were always perfect all the time, could God deliver us?

David is crying out to God for protection and, in the middle of it all, bursts out in worship. Even when his enemies have set a trap for him, he praises God with confidence.

My heart is confident in you, O God;
no wonder I can sing your praises!

Psalm 57:7 (NLT)

When we are confident in our God—the God we have a personal relationship with—we can, like David, worship even in the difficult times.

I cry out to God Most High,
to God who will fulfill his purpose for me.

Psalm 57:2 (NLT)

David had such a close relationship with God that, centuries before Jesus had a chance to speak the words, David had a great revelation of them.

The thief’s purpose is to steam and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give life in all its fullness.

John 10:10 (NLT)

David knew that, while the enemy was not of God, God would fulfill His purpose. And that purpose included good things, not bad.

He will send help from heaven to save me,
rescuing me from those who are out to get me.
My God will send forth his unfailing love and faithfulness.

Psalm 57:3 (NLT)

If you’re in the middle of a violent storm like David was, hold on to your confidence. Trust in your God and His plans and purposes for you. Work up the courage to worship when you’re surrounded by trouble. Remind yourself of God’s unfailing love and faithfulness.

Daily Bible reading: Psalm 56-58, Acts 28:1-15

The taste of freedom

If you’ve made it through your teen years, you may remember the taste of freedom you had the first time your parents let you take the car out on your own. When you got home, you’d already begun planning your next adventure. One time would never satisfy your craving for freedom. The more you were given, the more you wanted.

Once the Israelites had their first taste of freedom from slavery, they couldn’t imagine going back. But unlike your teenage self, they didn’t chase it as vehemently as a kid would the keys to the family car. They got complacent in between bouts of peace. Another group of people would come and stifle their liberties. Eventually, though, they’d tire of the oppression and cry out to God. God, in His infinite faithfulness and grace, would raise up a leader to pull Israel from their lethargy and bring them once again into victory.

Once the victory had been won, though, and Israel once again enjoyed peace, they’d settle back in for another round with their enemies to start the cycle again. They’d get tired of being pushed around and cry out to God and God would yet again raise up another leader to deliver them.

Had Israel relished in their victory and become addicted to the high it afforded them, maybe they wouldn’t have been so quick to settle down. God was doing amazing things in their midst, but it was almost as though miracles had become so commonplace that they no longer seemed miraculous. They failed to remind themselves of all their God had done for them and fell into a false sense of security. They sought God only when they couldn’t handle the situation any more.

I think we can often be accused of the same response to God. We only call out to Him when we’re desperate. What would happen if we were desperate for Him all the time? If we call out to Him not because we need something from Him, but because we need Him? What if just a taste of freedom was no longer satisfactory, but we demanded to live our lives basking in the glorious freedom that comes from an intimate and continual relationship with the God who sets us free?

Are you satisfied with just a taste or do you want to be standing in line at the 24/7 buffet?

Daily Bible reading: Judges 3-5, Luke 7:31-50

God of the living

Sometimes I wonder how much of what I enjoy today is because of the faithfulness of previous generations. I know that, as far back as we have been able to trace, my family has been Christians. And not just Christians – many of them in active ministry. Many still are.

From there Isaac moved to Beersheba, where the Lord appeared to him on the night of his arrival. “I am the God of your father, Abraham,” he said. “Do not be afraid, for I am with you and will bless you. I will give you many descendants, and they will become a great nation. I will do this because of my promise to Abraham, my servant.”

Genesis 26:23-24 (NLT)

Isaac was able to begin to see the fulfilment of God’s promise, not because of who he was, but because of who his father was. His prosperity was a result of the promise God had made to Abraham, not to Isaac.

‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’ So he is the God of the living, not the dead.

Matthew 22:32 (NLT)

Here, upon returning to the land his father had inhabited, Isaac is reminded of the promise that God made to Abraham. Abraham’s faithfulness and obedience allowed Isaac, as well as the generations that followed, to enjoy the fruit.

Who has been faithful in the generations that came before you? Are you enjoying the fruits of their faithfulness?

Perhaps you are the first generation of the faithful. Think about what you could be planting for the generations that come after you. Abraham never lived to see the whole promise fulfilled. Perhaps you won’t either, but your children might. Maybe your grandchildren and many generations after that.

Seeds of faithfulness and obedience never die.

Daily Bible reading: Genesis 25-26,Matthew 9:1-17