What is it?

Looking through my journals and email, I found out that I was wishing for a lot of good things to happen. I claimed to be “hoping,” but I did not/could not be confident the desired outcome would happen. That is not what hope is about. Hope is more than wishing. [Want to know more? Click here.]

Thursday, August 30, 2018


There are hoards of things that compete in my mind for the space God deserves. Unlike the Israelites at the beginning of Saul’s reign, my distractions are not responsible for the downfall of nations. They do get me sidetracked from serving God in the most productive ways possible.
The Israelites in 1 Samuel 13 had let the Philistines strip them of their skilled metal workers. At first it probably appeared that it was a small concession for peace to let the Philistines have all the metal workers. The Philistines had basically said, “You will send all your skilled iron craftsmen to us and we will make what you need for you, and we will not come against you in war.” The Israelites were lulled into thinking that it was a good trade. The Philistines, however, were being sneaky and taking away the opportunities for the Israelites to make anything out of metal for their use. This was especially dire when king Saul decided to fight against the Philistines and push them out of the Promised Land. The Israelites were left with wooden implements (mostly farming implements) as weapons, no match for the swords and spears the Philistines had available to them. It is likely that Israelite craftsmen were actually making the weapons that would destroy Israel!
While the Philistines were quietly making it impossible for the Israelites to make physical weapons of war that could be used to fight in God’s name, there are also subtle things sneaking into my life that render me less effective for God. Most of these things are time consumers or time wasters. Some are attitudes and things I allow to corrupt my thoughts and lead me away from God’s truth.
Can you think of any of those things in your own lives? Mindless activities serve a purpose – when they do not interfere with developing a closer walk with God. I enjoy watching television in the evenings when my mind is tired and I’m physically tired out from the day’s activities. Yet I also watch TV when I could be worshipping and praising God, when I could be praying for my concerns or the concerns of others. I often think I’ve done enough and God will let me off the hook for further learning about Him for the day. Yet I am not totally at peace within my soul and therefore there is more space for Him to fill me. That doesn’t happen by watching TV or playing solitaire on my phone.
I want to intentionally change and trust God to help me not let “sneaky” things interrupt my relationship with Him. I want to intentionally be filled with the Holy Spirit in such a way as to be more useful in God’s battles. I don’t want to be caught without my spears and swords.

Thursday, August 23, 2018

An Assignment

God had appointed a king over Israel through His man, Samuel. With this appointment of Saul as king, Samuel’s role changed. Before, Samuel had been God’s spokesman in all aspects of the Israelites lives. He was the “political” leader, the “governmental” leader, the “judge,” and the spiritual connection to God. Now, in 1 Samuel 12, we see his role shifting. The political and governmental leadership (and the people’s allegiance in those areas) was placed on the person of Saul, the earthly king that made them just like the other nations. Saul would also be responsible to set up a system to judge the people when there were disputes or wrongdoing.
In 1 Samuel 12:23 Samuel explains his new role in the kingdom of Israel: “Moreover, as for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord by ceasing to pray for you; but I will instruct you in the good and right way.” Samuel’s ongoing assignment was to pray for the people, and instruct them, when asked, “in the good and right way.” He went on to give them some instruction in verses 24-25:
Only fear the Lord and serve Him in truth with all your heart; for consider what great things He has done for you. But if you still do wickedly, both you and your king will be swept away.”
This caused me to consider what my assignment is. Samuel’s was to keep praying and listening to God. I think God gives Christians many “assignments” from studying His Word to being kind and considerate to others. One of these assignments is the same as it was for Samuel: to pray on behalf of people.
God has been bringing this issue to my attention for quite some time now. Back in January of 2016, I was prompted to start using a “prayer journal” again. I started one, writing prayer requests and answers down inconsistently from January to August. Then I started again in January 2017 writing a total of 7 requests down during 2017 (all in January). In 2018, I again opened my prayer journal beginning in April and was more consistent than in the previous years. Yet there are many missing days.
That’s not to say I didn’t pray. I pray all through my day, everyday; however, it’s not intentional, dedicated prayer time. These short, on-the-go prayers have been answered and I continue to pray many of them as I go about my days. I’m not saying that doing that is wrong – even if it’s the only kind of praying we do. I just feel that God has given me an assignment to be more intentional about my prayers. He wants me, for my own mental health, to write the prayers down, pray them through regularly, and make notes of answers to the prayers. When I do this, I am so encouraged and am able to trust God to a higher degree. And, in keeping with Philippians 4:6-7, God’s peace washes over me even as I wait for the prayers to be answered.
I want that kind of peace in my life. My intention is to be as committed to prayer as Samuel was. That starts today.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Anxiety and Trust

This week’s blog is going to deviate from the series on 1 Samuel. Due to a complicated life filled with trips to pick up and take back a daughter to college, a wedding shower, shopping and baking for the wedding shower, and dealing with a medical issue I did not have time to do my normal Bible study. It would’ve been on 1 Samuel 12, but that will have to wait until next week.
I am struggling with bucketfuls of anxiety these days. Due to my husband’s recent retirement, we have new medical insurance. I am very thankful we have a good retirement insurance plan, but it’s not great like the insurance we had before retirement. Thus there are some issues, which, at this point, are not being resolved in a favorable manner. I am working with my doctor to come up with alternate solutions, but it’s a slow process, and time is running out before things might turn into living in a hot frying pan.
Praise is my solution to my anxiety in this situation. Giving glory to God, recognizing Him for Who He is, has been a way to relieve the paralyzing fear and worry. This is what David faithfully did as shown in many of his Psalms. Those Psalms indicate David was worried, afraid, lonely, unsure, and facing trouble. David spoke to God about all these concerns even to the point of tears and suicidal depression. God wants us to bring all our concerns before Him; however, like David, He also wants us to look at the bigger picture remembering the obstacles God has overcome in the past and remembering His promises that He will do so again. We see that bigger picture when we praise God.
So in my attitude and posture, I bow before God and share all my struggles with Him (of course, He already knows all about what’s going on and is already working to see His plans come to fruition). I find myself acting and thinking like David. I just did it in the last sentence: I remember the truth about God and trust Him in each situation. I’m able to relax and find peace when I do it. Most often the peace does not last very long, sometimes only 10 minutes. The solution is to take notice again of God’s greatness and love by praising Him.
I am far from having this down pat. It is something I try to practice and I surround myself with people who remind me to stop, relax, praise God, and experience His peace. Someone is not always around; so then I rely on the Holy Spirit to nudge me in the direction of pausing and praising.
I will end these thoughts and stop and praise God, to gain peace in this moment. Maybe I will be able to concentrate for a time on some productive activity as a result of that peace.

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Historical Patterns

As I studied 1 Samuel 11, I didn’t have any great insights leading to practical application for me. The notes I referenced, Tom Bradford’sTorah Class, told readers of the historical books to be looking for patterns that occur over time and throughout the books of the Bible.
His thoughts were that things and events in Scripture do not happen in isolation. The events in Scripture build upon one another. I think we should have started our study of these historical books in the book of Judges, but even then there are links and patterns dating even further back in history.
For instance, 1 Samuel 11:6-7 give us an account of the way Saul called all the people of Israel together – by cutting apart two oxen and sending parts to each of the tribes with the message to all the able-bodied warriors to meet Saul in Bezek. The purpose was to form an army strong enough to go out against the army of Ammon who had severely threatened a town in Benjamin.
It’s kind of gruesome; however, it was not done in isolation. It actually had occurred before where the individual cut up was a man’s concubine who had been murdered by the people. In that situation, the tribes were gathered together to avenge those who did this wrong to the woman. Here, in 1 Samuel, Saul is reminding the tribes of this incident and asking them to come defend the city where that man had lived, kind of as pay back. (See Judges 19-21 for the background and beginning of this pattern.)
There are many more examples of events that happened in this chapter that can be seen as a pattern throughout the history of Israel. Without the help of the commentators, they are sometimes hard to see. I think, as we do our daily reading of the Bible, we need to take into account the whole picture. This is why Bible reading is as important as daily excursions into individual passages or chapters (Quiet Times), and deep and devoted time spent in Bible study. We need the overview. We need to watching for patterns and repeated commands so we don’t see each event and situation in isolation from the rest of Scripture. If you are not currently doing an “overview” type of reading the Bible, just start somewhere, keep track of where you’ve been, and look for the patterns.

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Salvation Before the Law

    1 Samuel 10 gives the account of how Saul was both privately and publicly announced as king of Israel. Part of Samuel’s conversation with Saul in private included a series of events that would happen to confirm to Saul that Samuel’s message was from God. These prophecies immediately occurred and, hopefully, confirmed to Saul that he was designated by God to be the first king of Israel, although Saul was initially not very excited about the idea.
     Samuel gathered all the tribes of Israel so God could reveal the anointing of Saul to them. After a process of elimination, Saul was the “chosen” one, however, Saul could not be found. He was hiding with the baggage. We are not told why he was doing this; it could be from humility, fear, reluctance, or something completely different.
Before the choosing process occurred, the Lord spoke to the people through Samuel. “Thus says, the Lord, The God of Israel, ‘I brought Israel up from Egypt, and I delivered you from the hand of the Egyptians and from the power of all the kingdoms that were oppressing you.’ But you have today rejected your God, who delivers you from all your calamities and your distresses; yet you have said, ‘NO, but set a king over us!” (1 Samuel 10:18-19).
     The point I want to look at comes from the description God gave for what He did for the people: “delivered” and later, “delivers.” Some translations use the words “saved” and “saves.” This is an account of God’s salvation being freely offered to the people of Israel. The same salvation He offers to us. Notice, God said He saved them before they had one word of the Law. The Laws is not, then or now, the means of salvation. Salvation is a choice God makes and provides a way for us to access it through faith.
     This is an important truth for every person on this earth. Following the precepts and statutes of the Old Testament saves no one. That is not the purpose of the Old Testament, even the first five books, the Law. Romans 3:20 tells us the purpose of the Law: “Therefore no one will be declared righteous in God’s sight by the works of the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of our sin.” The Old Testament account here of the words of God reveals the same truth to us. This is the message of all of Scripture. This is the truth from the beginning of time. 
     Whether a Jew or Gentile we are saved apart from the Laws God gave Moses. It’s been salvation then Law since the beginning of time. Therefore, we should not expect people to follow the Laws (of society or of God) before they are saved. Obedience to the Law only becomes possible after being saved. Let me say it again: it is not the Law that saves us. It’s God’s grace and mercy and power.