Friday, September 26, 2008

Cost of Following

Ruth 1
Great picture of Lordship. Last Sunday, at ANC, Brandon talked about the aspects of accepting Christ as Lord and Savior. That they go hand in hand. You cannot accept Christ as Savior if you aren’t willing to make him Lord. I believe this is where most people get the notion of their ‘Christiandom’ without true faith. This is where Cheap Grace comes from. Grace is truly not cheap if you truly make Christ Lord….because there is a cost, and the cost is high.
Ruth, Naomi’s daughter-in-law, after the death of all the husbands in the family said the following;
Ruth 1:16-17 "Don't urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the LORD deal with me, be it ever so severely, if anything but death separates you and me."
What a great picture of Lordship….or even a marriage covenant. There is a great cost to what Ruth has said she would do.
I wonder what Ruth was thinking as Naomi addressed the people in Bethlehem in verse 21 I went away full, but the LORD has brought me back empty.
The Lord provided Naomi with a daughter-in-law who made this awesome covenant, basically reminding me of the Lords promise to “never leave us or forsake us” and she says she is empty.
How self focused and wrapped up in herself to say this in front of Ruth…I am sure Ruth was very gracious, allowing her mother-in-law the time she needed to grieve. But Ruth had loss too.
Seriously, what do we ever have to complain about…..yet we do. Can you think of one thing that we complain about….that in the eternal scheme of things, doesn’t sound so stupid? Cost of living, gas prices, stock market, seriously…I can’t think of anything that when compared to Christ’s sacrifice doesn’t sound so self-focussed and petty.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

What is Right?

Judges 21:25 In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as he saw fit.

Proverbs 14:12 There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death.

Jeremiah 17:9 The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?

Amplified- every man did what was right in his own eyes.
Message- People did whatever they felt like doing.

You know most translations, even the Greek reads that men did what they thought was RIGHT. Men weren’t outright trying to be bad…or looking for mischief or corruption, they were trying to live correctly.
When left to our own ways…we are drawn to things in opposition to God. I don’t know why. This doesn’t seem to be a new problem. The Israelites, David, Solomon (supposedly one of the wisest men) all expose this problem.

Let’s draw ourselves closer to God, closer to his word, closer to others who are walking with him…… lean not on our own understanding, and in all our ways acknowledge him.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

We'll do this...and we'll do that

Judges 20:17 Israel, apart from Benjamin, mustered four hundred thousand swordsmen, all of them fighting men.

We’ve seen in the past, God doesn’t need huge numbers to carry out his plan.
When God was at the front (just a few chapters ago)
Judges 7:7 The LORD said to Gideon, "With the three hundred men that lapped I will save you and give the Midianites into your hands.
Did any catch the difference in language;
Judges 20:9 But now this is what we'll do to Gibeah: We'll go up against it as the lot directs.
In this chapter, they are no longer seeking God first…they are arming themselves, consulting lots, and checking with God after the fact.

God may we always seek you first. Sometimes, as men, our knee-jerk reaction is to just handle things….but I pray for reminders, even in the heat of battle, to bring it all to God.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Total Depravity

Judges 19
Similar story to Genesis 19 when Lot was hosting the ‘angels’ in Sodom, the writer of Judges is making a clear correlation between modern day Israel and Sodom. Where not just a single male was wanting to engage in sexual domination…but an entire mob. I believe the writer is saying….Sodom was bad, but modern day Israel, without a king, is exponentially worse than Sodom.
How soon after the inhabitation of the “promised land” do the people of God fall into total depravity….not long. A singular act of depravity would be one thing….but so much is going on here.
The concubine was unfaithful
The Levite was a bad/unloving husband (see #’s 6&7)
The city of Gibeah and no hospitality
The host offered up his virgin daughter and the guest’s concubine
The Levite gave up his concubine to protect himself (cowardice)
The Levite slept while his concubine was being raped all night long
The Levite emotionless picked up his dead concubine and packed her on a donkey
The Levite dismembered his concubine
The Levite sent parts of her body throughout Israel
I wonder if there is more sin and depravity that is within the story. I wonder if I missed it. I wonder too….if we become so focused on the BIG sins…(i.e. rape and dismemberment) that we lose focus on the fact that this Levite must have been a bad husband, for his wife to stray and become unfaithful. Also, the Levite when leaving his father-in-law’s home gathered his property;
Judges 19:10 But, unwilling to stay another night, the man left and went toward Jebus (that is, Jerusalem), with his two saddled donkeys and his concubine.
Notice his concubine is placed in the writing after the donkeys. Order of importance? Guys, there is so much in this story that started with this man’s (the Levite’s) lack of devotion to his wife.
God help up love our wives, be better husbands, be better fathers. God, in this current day….when we hear stories of depravity…even total depravity…..let it not overshadow our own depravity.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Ill-Gotten Gain

The old preacher used to say…”if he isn’t Lord OF all…..he isn’t Lord AT all!”

I find myself wrestling with what Brandon preached on last night…and accepting the ‘fire insurance’ without giving up ‘lordship’. Its so true and its kinda like what the Danites have done here in Judges 18. They say they are following God, but they have no clue what that even looks like.

They are merely going through the motions, doing things in the “name of God” and seeking his favor after the fact.

Judges 18:10 When you get there, you will find an unsuspecting people and a spacious land that God has put into your hands, a land that lacks nothing whatever."

I think of the term, “ill-gotten gain”.
The Danites relied on their own military might, not the will and direction and hand of God. They picked out and EASY military target, attacked them unsuspectingly, and of course won…and rebuilt the city, and placed their newfound idols, and put their priest in place..and worshipped there. Then;

31 They continued to use the idols Micah had made, all the time the house of God was in Shiloh.

Shiloh is where they were suppose to worship God. The Danites set up their own gods, place of worship and priest to make it easier. I have heard this repeated by sincere people time after time….I don’t need to go to church to worship God. I can worship God while fishing, working in the yard, hunting….which is all true…but when you find yourself not wanting to be ‘in community’ with God’s people, I find that you are not wanting to submit yourself to God’s lordship.

Friday, September 19, 2008

American Idols

Judges 17:13 And Micah said, "Now I know that the LORD will be good to me, since this Levite has become my priest."

This manner of thinking is so….current day and American, isn’t it? People believe that if they can befriend a priest, pastor, or other spiritual person that their spirituality will rub off on them.
Micah felt like the Lord was at this priest’s disposal and he could dole God out like candy. Micah believed that his spirituality depended on the proximity to one who knew the Lord…not on actually knowing the Lord himself.
This was just another in a long list (in a short chapter mind you) of idols Micah had.
1. Stolen silver

2. Idol made of silver

3. Ephod

4. Some other idols

5. His son (as priest)

6. Levite priest

God let us be aware of the things we think too highly of. Don’t allow us to put faith in anything but you. Money will fail, men will fail, health will fail….but the Word of the Lord endures forever!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Stir us

Now we all know the story of Samson and Delilah….and the source of Samson’s strength. He was a Nazarite, set apart for the work of God. Being a Nazarite, he was never to have his hair cut….and his long hair was the source of his strength….or was it?

Judges 16:20 So Samson when he woke up from his sleep and thought, "I'll go out as before and shake myself free." But he did not know that the LORD had left him.
So it wasn’t his hair that gave him strength, but the power of the Lord in him. I wonder if Samson actually thought that he had this ‘superhuman’ strength from his hair, because he had had it (the hair and the strength) so long that he equated what he (Samson) was in control of (his hair) with a gift he was given for God’s glory (his strength).
I was reminded of the man at the Sheepsgate Pool…who lay paralyzed for 38 years. He believed and put his faith in the ‘Pool’ and the water. When Jesus asked him if he wanted to be healed, his reply was “I have no one to throw me in the water”. The man, when confronted with Jesus, the healer, had looked for so long at the pool and the healing waters…that he forgot that it was actually the power of God who heals. So Jesus, reminds him that it is God who stirs the waters when he tells him to get up.

At some point Samson remembers the source of his strength and he prays
"O Sovereign LORD, remember me. O God, please strengthen me just once more, and let me with one blow get revenge on the Philistines for my two eyes."

I pray that we never lose sight of the fact that God is at work at ANC. All of our planning, strategies, budgets, demographic studies, blood, sweat and tears…amount to the same as a lock of hair, or a pool of water. Without God at work in ANC….we would not see lives changed, people healing, true religion happening. Take all the glory, Father….because it is yours anyway. Stir the waters of ANC, so that men and women flock to You, not to us.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

In HIS Strength

Judges 12-15 They said to him, "We've come to tie you up and hand you over to the Philistines." Samson said, "Swear to me that you won't kill me yourselves."
"Agreed," they answered. "We will only tie you up and hand you over to them. We will not kill you." So they bound him with two new ropes and led him up from the rock. As he approached Lehi, the Philistines came toward him shouting. The Spirit of the LORD came upon him in power. The ropes on his arms became like charred flax, and the bindings dropped from his hands. Finding a fresh jawbone of a donkey, he grabbed it and struck down a thousand men.

Samson had previously experienced the power of the Spirit of the Lord…and he placed his faith in that power once again as he allowed himself to be taken from the cave and bound with new ropes. I want to live in that power. Knowing that I have that power in my back pocket.

Samson had great strength, but in order for God to glorify himself, Samson had to be bridled. When we operate in our strengths, its easy for us to take glory for the victories. But a constant theme in the Bible is, that in our weakness, He is made strong.

I love what has been going on in the life of ANC. God is using Hurricane IKE to galvanize two communities. The families we hosted from Houston were amazed at the level of love, encouragement and support they received from us. God, laid it on our hearts to host, help and give generously.

Our church community is also rising to the challenge. Allowing complete strangers full access to their homes and lives is a stretching time for a lot of people, myself included. But the folk’s we are hosting feel as if they are “living like kings”…in the words of one of them. Another one told me, “in our wildest dreams, we don’t dream of living in a home like yours”…..

What a great picture of heaven. When we get there…I am sure….our finite thoughts of ‘streets of gold’ wont hold a candle to the actual beauty and splendor of the home God has waiting for us.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Two more things on IKE

So we had two families staying with us. One was a pastor and his wife...and his dad. The other were a couple and a daughter. The ladies were friends from work. So very first night, we had a great discussion on religion, the differences between Catholic and Baptists, communion, baptism among other things. Boni, the pastor asked me to close our discussion before bedtime in prayer....and I agreed if he would also in Spanish. During his prayer, he inquired if anyone wanted to have salvation and Irene said yes....and he led her in a sweet prayer. Right there in my living room, with the Weather Channel on, Irene (a 45 year old (mas o menos) hair dresser) made Christ the Lord of her life....without knowing all the answers, without learning more about God, without cleaning up before she came.... she just said, God I want to know you, like I have never known you before. I want you to come into my life and save me...and I want to make you Lord. Whatever that means down the road....we'll figure it out, but I trust you and take you up on your offer of new life.

Second thing, we are going back. We have started this relationship with these folks and we want to be a blessing to help them, to help them help others. We have set up a fund on enter go there and help if you can.

Ike Relief ( via paypal)

A group of us travelled yesterday to Houston, Pasadena and Galveston County, to provide disaster relief. We arrived in Houston pretty late...but met a group of about 25 families at the church of one of the pastors staying at my house.

We carried things like ice, water, beans, rice, canned tuna and chicken, paper goods, crackers and bread. Of course the ice went first…..we had carried about 10 coolers each containing 6 huge bags of ice…and although I had always heard that it was a commodity….it was of course the first thing that people asked us for….especially after we ran out.

Okay, so first things first, we went by Lewis Signs and got our red “DISASTER RELIEF” signs plastered on our trailers, so that we would have an easier time in any checkpoints and running around after curfew. Then we made a Sam’s run to get all the goods. We had about 8 of those flatbed carts filled with all the stuff we were buying. In the meantime….people were coming up to those of us outside and giving money for “the cause”. Funny how God places compassion within all of us in times of need.

We only filled up one of the two we went back for more.

So we got off to a later than anticipated start, but we rolled into Houston before dark and got to hand out food at the church. Then we did some individual drop offs. The most amazing thing was how well, people were taking their situation, looking out for each other, calling on neighbors to come get stuff from us. We had one guy lead us to another family who had a newborn (who needed some diapers that we had) and Brandon delivered them to the door, got to meet the family and had time to share what we were doing and prayed with them.

You know, I thought about God glorifying himself in disaster and I realized and witnessed it happening first hand. As we roll up in our trucks with trailers, folk knew we were a church organization. We simply met a basic need… and water…maybe some ice and chicken…but overwhelmingly the thing I heard most from the people we were serving was, “God Bless y’all! Thank you”. I don’t know the faith backgrounds of everyone we served. But like me, they are on a ‘journey’. Whether they know God or not, they are walking through life…and I pray that as we went…made ourselves…our resources….our time available to them…that the Kingdom of God, became more Tangible for them.

I noticed one guy at the last apartment complex we went to, told us no less than 5 times….”thank you guys so much, God Bless y’all”. No doubt he saw Christ last night.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Secret Sin

Judges 14:5-6 As they approached the vineyards of Timnah, suddenly a young lion came roaring toward him. The Spirit of the LORD came upon him in power so that he tore the lion apart with his bare hands as he might have torn a young goat.

A couple of observations. Samson, upon killing the lion, went against the law which said NOT to touch anything dead. As a Nazarite, this contact would so defile you that you would have to basically start the Nazarine process over. But instead…..Samson…just didn’t tell his parents.

This is a lot like us…the sin that goes unnoticed…by others, our family members, of friends..we just continue on, sometimes like it didn’t even happen. We may secretly ask forgiveness from God, but harbored or hidden sins have a way of creeping back into our lives.

Also Samson shouldn’t be considering marriage to this Philistine woman, because she was a foreigner and she worshipped other gods. God specifically said not to ‘intermarry’. But Samson is doing his own thing.

So when Samson was on his way back to see his wife ….again he defiled himself by reaching in the dead lion and scooped out some honey. This time, not only did he defile himself, but he defiled his parents. Here is the danger of secret sin….unwilligly including others in them. Had Samson confessed his sin to his parents in the first place…they would have been in a position to protect him on the way back by. As it was….not only did Samson sin…but his parents were unknowingly sinning as well.

God I pray you put those in our lives, who ask us the tough questions….who hold us accountable, who don’t let sin go unnoticed. We know that Satan is like the lion in the story, seeking to kill and destroy us…and its only in your power that we can overcome him.

Friday, September 12, 2008

"I Shot the Sheriff"

WARNING WARNING today’s posting has little to no spiritual significance WARNING WARNING
Judges 13:7 Now then, drink no wine or other fermented drink and do not eat anything unclean, because the boy will be a Nazirite of God from birth until the day of his death.' "
A couple of interesting points. One is the at Nazarites, even Manoah’s wife who was told she would give birth to a child, even though she had been sterile, were to be set apart. She was told to basically adhere to the Nazarite ‘code’ and to avoid wine and unclean food.
Nazarites as part of their vow, were to abstain from not only wines…but also grapes, raisins or any derivative of grapes. They were to say away from unclean food and corpses as well. Nor could they cut there hair.
In reading about Nazarites, I found an odd thing….Rustafaris derive some of their customs from the ways of the Nazarites. From their diets, to not having wine to obviously not cutting their hair. Some even believe Samson to have had dreadlocks (due to a description of having 7 locks upon his head).
I know when you think Rastafarians, you think Bob Marley, Jamaica and smoking cannabis (or weed, pot, grass, the Devil’s cabbage etc.). Let me assure you, I have no desire to partake of the herb, but even the Rasta’s believe their smoking pot is justified in the Bible:
Genesis 1:11 "And God said, Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after his kind, whose seed is in itself, upon the earth: and it was so."
Genesis 3:18 "... thou shalt eat the herb of the field."
Proverbs 15:17 "Better is a dinner of herbs where love is, than a stalled ox and hatred therewith."[2]
Psalms 104:14 "He causeth the grass to grow for the cattle, and herb for the service of man."
You know sometimes you start down and road and you se where it takes you… is where I ended up this morning. I’ll try to do better tommorow. But you were WARNED!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Words and Deeds

Judges 10:15-16 But the Israelites said to the LORD, "We have sinned. Do with us whatever you think best, but please rescue us now." Then they got rid of the foreign gods among them and served the LORD. And he could bear Israel's misery no longer.

I’m not sure if this the first time…that I sense repentance rather than just remorse.

John MacArthur wrote: "Genuine repentance acknowledges God’s right to chasten, so His punishment is seen as just and He is thereby glorified. It also seeks the remediation that chastening brings, because genuine contrition pursues holiness."

The Israelites not only were remorseful, but sensed that God’s justice and His punishment were better than living without His presence. They threw themselves at his feet not expecting mercy, yet knowing God was merciful.

Then, taking it a step further, they proactively turned to God not only in their words…but in their deeds, when they got rid of the foreign gods. This represented not only a spiritual turning but a public acknowledgement that they had blown it.

How many times have I offered up carefully scripted prayers, thought about my offense and prayed for forgiveness, yet didn’t remove the sources of my sin. How many times have I accepted the mercy and grace God offers, then turn right around and prove myself unworthy of either.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Who is your King?

Judges 9:56 Thus God repaid the wickedness that Abimelech had done to his father by murdering his seventy brothers.

I read that the name Abimelech literally means…my father is King. The name though is a bit ambiguous….when Gideon named Abimelech, was he referring to himself or to God as king.

Now I don’t know the actually meanings of my kids names….but have I projected a posture of God being my Lord and King….or do I, as did Gideon (with the Ephod) project myself and my accomplishments. My prayer is constantly to be showing and leading my kids to understand that our authority is under the headship of Christ.

I certainly don’t want to raise a couple of Abimelechs….and although I don’t always success in emulating Christ, I do constantly press on to become more like Him. The way I relate to them, to their mother..and the way they see me relate to others is constantly a witness to them. There is (or should be) no doubt as to who is my master, who is my Lord and my God.

Monday, September 08, 2008

who's got two thumbs......

Judges 8:33 No sooner had Gideon died than the Israelites again prostituted themselves to the Baals.
Okay seriously….who’s got two thumbs and is ticked at the Israelites….this guy!’ I’m imagining Gideon’s body…not even to room temperature, and theres the Israelites with the crane, erecting the Asherah pole….and Baal altars again. You know it’s tough not to cast stones here. But we do the same thing. No sooner do we confess our sin..are forgiven, but we fall right back into the same sin life we have been forgiven.

And it’s also no wonder they missed Jesus. Seriously, maybe they actually finally got it (when Jesus came)…. Have no Gods before me...hmmm....maybe God is serious. So, when Jesus came, proclaiming to be God’s son….they were not only skeptics, haters and eventually the ones who put him to death, but even today….its a tough sell…even with the entire bible laid out before them, all the prophets pointing to Jesus….Jews then and now…are like, no its ok, we are good with One God. We’ve learned our lessons.

Makes me appreciate even more, those Completed Jews....who love and desire for the Jews to accept their Messiah.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Trumpet...jar....God, what else could you need?

Judges 7:16 Dividing the three hundred men into three companies, he placed trumpets and empty jars in the hands of all of them, with torches inside.
17 "Watch me," he told them. "Follow my lead. When I get to the edge of the camp, do exactly as I do.
22 When the three hundred trumpets sounded, the LORD caused the men throughout the camp to turn on each other with their swords.

With camels as thick as the sands of the sea…do we know how many thousands of men there were? Regardless, God chose to narrow the men to 300, because he didn’t want Israel to boast of its own power and might.

So God chose the men for Gideon, and apparently instructed Gideon to arm the men with a trumpet and an empty jar…with a torch inside. "A sword for the LORD and for Gideon!". With the Midianites already hearing the prophetic dream…this caused such confusion/chaos that the men turn on themselves and the Lord delivered them into the hands of Gideons 300 man army…armed with only a trumpet and jar….

I often think of my own abilities and strengths...and it seems to be when I use them… I struggle with not taking credit. Pride. God knows this. But when I am a part of a larger effort…where I am totally at someone else’s mercy, when they tell me….just do as I do… and I try… I get none of the glory.

So not only had God narrowed the troops from thousands to 300….these fighting men, were reduced again to following the leading of God through Gideon. Can you imagine walking into a fighting situation with only a trumpet and a jar? Yet they were obedient.

Moment of transparency, I gotta be honest with you…. I feel like this all the time. What I knew before coming to ANC…is out the window. All the experience, all the confidence in what I “thought” I knew….about church and ministry…..gone. I wake up everyday, pick up my trumpet and my jar and go to work. God gets any and all glory for what goes on….at least in my little area of ministry, because he is teaching me things about me….I never knew.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Meek to Mighty

15 "But Lord , " Gideon asked, "how can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family."
Tear down your father's altar to Baal and cut down the Asherah pole beside it.

God delights in using the ‘least’. He continually does this. In both old and new testaments, Gods man isn’t the largest, the most educated, the mightiest or from the best lineage. Here God selects the most feeble of the weakest family…and calls him Mighty Warrior.
Something else I noticed, God picks a dude, who’s family is not only worshiping Baal, but is a leader in worshiping the wrong god (they owned the altar and asherah pole). The very reason God has allowed all this calamity, God picks from the midst.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008


Judges 4:8 Barak said to her, "If you go with me, I will go; but if you don't go with me, I won't go."

9 "Very well," Deborah said, "I will go with you. But because of the way you are going about this, [b] the honor will not be yours, for the LORD will hand Sisera over to a woman."

Here is a crazy notion…and I am guilty of this as well…Barak trusted Deborah’s relationship with the Lord, more than he did his own. Barak knew what he suppose to do, I believe he trusted that God would give the Israelites victory over Sisera…but…a little added “insurance” never hurts.

Another thing that caught me off guard this morning…just an observation, I assumed that the “woman” that have Sisera handed over to her would be Deborah. In the end it was Jael, a member of a friendly tribe to Sisera’s. Whether or not she was friendly…she was obviously open to be used by God.