Trusting God – 1 Samuel Intro.

Life is full of challenges and complications.  What do we do when we face these overwhelming obstacles? 1 Samuel tells the stories of women and men who struggled to trust God but in doing so discovered that He is enough.  Like them we can embrace the fact that God’s guidance and goodness can be trusted.   Here are the the first  people introduced in 1 Samuel, their life lessons and what we can learn from them in the next few weeks:

Hannah

Hannah’s prayer shows us that all we have and receive is on loan from God. Hannah might have had many excuses for being a possessive mother. But when God answered her prayer, she followed through on her promise to dedicate Samuel to God’s service.

She discovered that the greatest joy in having a child is to give that child fully and freely back to God. She entered motherhood prepared to do what all mothers must eventually do—let go of their children.

When children are born, they are completely dependent upon their parents for all their basic necessities. This causes some parents to forget that those same children will grow toward independence within the span of a few short years. Being sensitive to the different stages of that healthy process will greatly strengthen family relationships; resisting or denying that process will cause great pain. We must gradually let go of our children in order to allow them to become mature, independent adults.

Strengths and accomplishments

  • Mother of Samuel, Israel’s greatest judge
  • Fervent in worship; effective in prayer
  • Willing to follow through on even a costly commitment

Weakness and mistake

  • Struggled with her sense of self-worth because she had been unable to have children

Lessons from her life

  • God hears and answers prayer
  • Our children are gifts from God
  • God is concerned for the oppressed and afflicted

Her story is told in 1 Samuel 1-2.

 

Elkanah & Peninnah

Husbands can be insensitive for many reasons, but often they simply suffer from ignorance. Elkanah had two wives, which doubled his opportunities to seem insensitive. His wife Peninnah was able to give Elkanah many children. The other wife, Hannah, owned Elkanah’s heart but was unable to get pregnant. Peninnah, jealous that providing Elkanah with heirs didn’t turn his affections toward her, treated Hannah with disdain. Yet Elkanah seemed oblivious to the turmoil around him.

Although the events leading up to the birth of Samuel primarily involved Hannah, both Elkanah and Peninnah played significant roles. Peninnah’s competitiveness and derision drove Hannah to prayer; Elkanah’s simple love allowed Hannah to entrust their child Samuel into God’s care. Elkanah didn’t realize how much a little attention toward Peninnah could have cooled the simmering emotions in his home. Nor did he understand that his love for Hannah didn’t make up for the emptiness of her womb.

The glimpse God gives us of that tense household provides a helpful backdrop for God’s purposes, which are not thwarted by human shortcomings. He worked within the strain and stress of those relationships to bring Samuel into the world—one of the most significant figures in the Old Testament. When our relational systems seem too gnarled to be unraveled or salvaged, we need to remember that God not only displays his creativity by making things from scratch, but also by bringing order and beauty out of messes.

Strengths and accomplishments

  • Elkanah supported Hannah’s decision to leave Samuel in Shiloh to be raised as a priest
  • Regular trips to Shiloh acknowledged God’s importance to the entire family

Weaknesses and mistakes

  • Elkanah did not understand what would have helped each of his wives
  • Peninnah made things worse by taking out her disappointment and anger on Hannah

Lessons from their lives

  • Ignorance is not a good excuse for insensitivity
  • Jealousy is not a good excuse for bad behavior
  • God works in the middle of family messes

Their story is told in 1 Samuel 1-2.

Eli

Eli was one Old Testament person with a very modern problem. The recognition and respect he earned in public did not extend to his handling of his private affairs. He may have been an excellent priest, but he was a poor parent. His sons brought him grief and ruin. He lacked two important qualities needed for effective parental discipline: firm resolve and corrective action.

Eli responded to situations rather than solving them. But even his responses tended to be weak. God pointed out his sons’ errors, but Eli did little to correct them. The contrast between God’s dealing with Eli and Eli’s dealing with his sons is clear—God gave warning, spelled out the consequences of disobedience, and then acted. Eli only warned. Children need to learn that their parents’ words and actions go together. Both love and discipline must be spoken as well as acted out.

But Eli had another problem. He was more concerned with the symbols of his religion than with the God they represented. For Eli, the Ark of the Covenant had become a relic to be protected rather than a reminder of the Protector. His faith shifted from the Creator to the created.

Strengths and accomplishments

  • Judged Israel for 40 years
  • Spoke with Hannah, the mother of Samuel, and assured her of God’s blessing
  • Reared and trained Samuel, the greatest judge of Israel

Weaknesses and mistakes

  • Failed to discipline his sons or correct them when they sinned
  • Tended to react to situations rather than take decisive action
  • Saw the Ark of the Covenant as a relic to be cherished rather than as a symbol of God’s presence with Israel

Lessons from his life

  • Parents need to discipline their children responsibly
  • Life is more than simply reacting; it demands action
  • Past victories cannot substitute for present trust

Key verses

Then the Lord said to Samuel, ‘I am about to do a shocking thing in Israel. I am going to carry out all my threats against Eli and his family, from beginning to end. I have warned him that judgment is coming upon his family forever, because his sons are blaspheming God and he hasn’t disciplined them. So I have vowed that the sins of Eli and his sons will never be forgiven by sacrifices or offerings'” (1 Samuel 3:11-14).

His story is told in 1 Samuel 1-4. He is also mentioned in 1 Kings 2:2627.

Samuel

We often wonder about the childhoods of great people. We have little information about the early years of most of the people mentioned in the Bible. One delightful exception is Samuel; he came as a result of God’s answer to Hannah’s fervent prayer for a child. (In fact, the name Samuel comes from the Hebrew expression “heard of God.”) God shaped Samuel from the start. Like Moses, Samuel was called to fill many different roles: judge, priest, prophet, counselor, and God’s man at a turning point in the history of Israel. God worked through Samuel because Samuel was willing to be one thing: God’s servant.

Samuel showed that those whom God finds faithful in small things will be trusted with greater things. He grew up assisting the high priest (Eli) in the Tabernacle until God directed him to other responsibilities. God was able to use Samuel because he was genuinely dedicated to God.

Strengths and accomplishments

  • Used by God to assist Israel’s transition from a loosely governed tribal people to a monarchy
  • Anointed the first two kings of Israel
  • Was the last and most effective of Israel’s judges
  • Is listed in the Hall of Faith in Hebrews 11

Weakness and mistake

  • Was unable to lead his sons into a close relationship with God

Lessons from his life

  • The significance of what people accomplish is directly related to their relationship with God
  • The kind of person we are is more important than anything we might do

Key verses

“As Samuel grew up, the Lord was with him, and everything Samuel said proved to be reliable. And all Israel, from Dan in the north to Beersheba in the south, knew that Samuel was confirmed as a prophet of the Lord” (1 Samuel 3:19, 20).

His story is told in 1 Samuel 1-28. He is also mentioned in Psalm 99:6; Jeremiah 15:1; Acts 3:24; 13:20; Hebrews 11:32.

I hope you can join us in our journey through 1 Samuel.

Darrell

www.Upwards.Church

Adapted from:  Life Application Study Bible, (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale, 1988), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, 409-419.
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Returning Hero – Mark 13

Do you remember where you were when you heard the news of major historic event just happening?  I’m dating myself, but remember while I was at a skating rink that news of Elvis Presley’s death (August 16, 1977) was shared over the loudspeaker.  I was in a high school history classroom when our teacher put on the news coverage of the Challenger disaster on January 28, 1986.  Do you remember where you were and how you felt when news broke about the terrorist attack on the twin towers September 11, 2001?   These and other events affect us powerfully, but all of those events pale in comparison to the most incredible event in all of history the awesome return of our reigning hero Jesus Christ!

The first time Jesus came mostly unnoticed into the world, the next time “every eye will see him.” In his first coming Jesus humbled himself, being born in a stable in Bethlehem. When he returns, he will come back as “King of Kings and Lord of Lords.” In his first coming he endured the mockery of men who despised him for his goodness. Although he was the Son of God, he allowed them to put him to death, that He might thereby provide salvation for the world. When he comes again, all mockery will cease for he will rule the nations with a rod of iron. He came the first time as the Lamb of God; he comes again as the Lion of the Tribe of Judah. Two thousand years ago the religious leaders shouted in scorn, “He saved others, but he can’t save himself!”  The day is coming when the whole world will see Jesus as he really is. When that happens, every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (Philippians 2:9-11).

For Jesus’ first coming the word HUMILITY might best describe that historical event.  For His second coming, POWER and glory.  Nothing will be more spectacular than the triumphant return of our victorious hero!  Though He was once “despised and rejected of men,” He will one day return “in power and great glory,” heralded by angels and accompanied by his saints.

The return of Jesus and end times is known in theological terms as Eschatology, the study of last things.

In eschatology, it is important to remember that almost all Christians agree on these three things:

  1. There is coming a time of great tribulation such as the world has never seen.
  2. After the Tribulation, Christ will return to establish His millennial kingdom on earth.
  3. There will be Rapture; when Jesus returns to take His bride/church to be with him in Heaven, John 14:1-3. When our earthly bodies are transformed or resurrected into heavenly bodies 1 Corinthians 15:51-52; when Jesus returns with a trumpet of the archangel and all believers are caught up in the air to meet the Lord in the air to be with him for all eternity! 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17).

The question that causes differing opinions is, “when does the Rapture occur in relation to the Tribulation and the Second Coming of Christ?”

Through the years three main theories have emerged concerning the timing of the Rapture: pretribulationism (the belief that the Rapture will occur before the Tribulation begins), midtribulationism (the belief that the Rapture will occur at the midpoint of the Tribulation), and posttribulationism (the belief that the Rapture will occur at the end of the Tribulation).  For more details about each, go here.

All beliefs have biblical validity and we shouldn’t fight or argue about which belief is best the most important thing to remember is Jesus is returning in power to take His church (believers, you) with Him to heaven for all eternity!   Our part is to be watchful and ready.   Are you ready for Jesus to return?

Darrell

www.Upwards.Church

Sources:

https://www.gotquestions.org/pretribulationism.html

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Touched By Jesus – Mark 8

Have you ever heard of the term “untouchable?”  It refers to class of people that are despised, rejected, looked down upon and often abused.  Unfortunately we still have this reality today, but it was especially common in Jesus day to refer to people with blindness, deafness, sickness, illness, diseases or deformity.  Our hero Jesus steps in and touches an untouchable in our passage today.

Hopefully we won’t overlook the reality of what an unbelievable act a miracle was in that era of human history. Diseases were everywhere. There was little knowledge of what caused diseases.  There were few cures.  Whatever a person had, they had to live with.  Birth defects and venereal disease and lack of sanitation, infections, accidents, diseases all contributed to people being blind and a lot of people were blind.  

Jesus our hero came to heal and open blind eyes.  There’s a great reference to this fact when John the Baptist was in prison and he sent some of his followers to Jesus to see if He was actually the Messiah. 

When John, who was in prison, heard about the deeds of the Messiah, he sent his disciples to ask him, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?” Jesus replied, “Go back and report to John what you hear and see:The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy[b] are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor. Matthew 11:1-5

This was a mark of Jesus ministry:  people healed, seeing, walking and cleansed!  Not only did Jesus heal but He also brought hope.  Blind people were usually outcasts. They were viewed as having been cursed by God. That’s why in John 9 the disciples begin a conversation about a blind man with,

Who sinned, this man or his parents?” John 9:1-2. Because if you were blind, according to their theology, you had been cursed by God and that would be true of any deformity, any defect, any disease. Their theology basically lined up with Job’s friends who assumed that because Job was having a lot of trouble, there was a lot of sin present.  Blind people were put out of the synagogue, they were alienated from normal social activity and life and perhaps only their family and friends would even so much as touch them, they were the untouchables.  They were in a desperate category.  For Jesus to step into that world at that time with tremendous amounts of illness in the middle of a false belief system that said, “You’re being cursed by God” and then miraculously cure anybody who came to Him is a huge statement about the compassion of God and the power of Christ.  What a hero!

The healing of this blind man in Mark 8 and the healing of the deaf-mute (7:31-37) are recorded only in Mark’s Gospel. These two miracles have several things in common: In both, Jesus took the man away from the crowd before performing the miracle, he used saliva, he touched him, and he did not publicize the event. This healing of the blind man is unique because it is the only record of Jesus healing in stages.

Once again, upon Jesus’ arrival, people brought the sick to him. This time some people brought a blind man (obviously he needed to be brought because he would never find Jesus on his own), and they begged Jesus to touch him. They had faith that Jesus’ touch would make their friend see again.

22 They came to Bethsaida, and some people brought a blind man and begged Jesus to touch him. 23 He took the blind man by the hand and led him outside the village. When he had spit on the man’s eyes and put his hands on him, Jesus asked, “Do you see anything?” 24 He looked up and said, “I see people; they look like trees walking around.”

25 Once more Jesus put his hands on the man’s eyes. Then his eyes were opened, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly. 

Let’s also see the direct connection from this story to the story of the disciples’ spiritual blindness at the end of this chapter.  Sight is a metaphor for understanding. Though they had different kinds of blindness, the disciples and the blind man could be given sight if they would have faith.

Have you ever met someone who says, “God could never forgive me because of all that I’ve done?”  Or “God may love others but I’m not sure that He loves me.”   It’s sad to me when people feel that they are untouchable spiritually.   The same Jesus, who loved to touch physically blind people, loves to touch spiritually blind people!  Jesus loves you.  Jesus loves to touch people today.

Like the blind man who needed for people to bring him to Jesus to be healed, are we believers willing to bring spiritually blind people to Jesus?  We can in prayer.  We can by in inviting them experience Jesus at church, a concert or an event.  We can share the gospel with them.

If you are not seeing Jesus clearly or spiritual matters clearly, could it be like the blind man that we need additional touches by Christ?   I know I long to be touched by the power of Christ not just once but often, that I may see more clearly.  I continue to learn, to grow and experience Christ the longer I walk with Him.  I need another touch of Christ.

I’ve met people that came to church twice and because God didn’t heal their marriage immediately; they decided to give up.  Could it be that they needed more time and another touch of Jesus?  I’ve met people that asked me to pray that their business expands and after it happens, they are satisfied and stop attending church.  Could it be that there is more to life than money and a successful business?   Does Jesus want to do more in our lives than help us have a good marriage and bank account?   I believe that Jesus wants to touch every area of our lives.  He wants us to grow spiritually, to know Him personally, to depend on Him, to serve Him.  He wants us to see a bigger picture than our own needs and desires.  He wants us to see the needs and other blind broken people that need His touch.

I was blind and broken until Jesus touched me.  I’m thankful for the people who prayed for me, ministered to me and invited me to experience Jesus.  I’m thankful for my healing hero and want to share Him with others.

Darrell

www.Upwards.Church

 

Sources:
Grace to You, John MacArthur, Jesus Power Over Blindness
Bruce B. Barton et al., Life Application Bible Commentary – Mark, (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale, 1994), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, 229-230.

 

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Resurrected Hero – Mark 16

Jesus is our Resurrected Hero!  Regardless of what is happening in the world right now that might tempt us to believe otherwise; the risen Christ reminds us that He is able to bring hope where there is despairjoy where there is grieflove where there is indifference, trust where there is fear, new life where there is death.

Some years ago, the Pepsi Company had an advertising slogan that said this, “Come alive with the Pepsi generation!” Now that sounded good here in North America, but it didn’t quite cut it when it was translated into different languages around the world. In fact in Taiwan, when the slogan was translated, it promised something that Pepsi couldn’t deliver either. Instead of, “Come alive with the Pepsi generation!” the translated slogan read as this, “Pepsi will bring your ancestors back from the dead!”

Now I don’t know if that increased, or decreased, their sales, but there is a world of difference between the two meanings, isn’t there? What their slogan promised was too impossible to be true. But the good news for us is this – what is impossible for man is not impossible for God.

The reality of the resurrection is the foundation of our faith.  In Mark 16, at the empty tomb three instructions were spoken to the women:  “Do not fear – Come and see – Go and tell.” They apply to us today as well!

Jesus is the ultimate hero, but next up for hero status is the women!  They were traveling with Jesus during his three years of ministry; they were last at the cross and first at the tomb.

The women who come to the tomb in Mark 16 are not only grieving as some of us are today who have lost a loved one, but they are in the shock that comes in the first days of grief and loss because a relatively young person they love was killed in an act of violence. Today there are too many grieving people who find themselves in a similar place as these women. All throughout our nation and indeed the world – families of little children, teenagers, and adults are mourning the loss of loved ones who were killed by acts of violence. The women we meet that first Easter morning can relate to those who are grieving such losses.

. 2  Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they were on their way to the tomb  3  and they asked each other, “Who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb?”  4  But when they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away.  5  As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed. 6  “Don’t be alarmed,”

Because Our Hero is Alive we can Overcome Fear

As the women went to Jesus’ tomb early in the morning on the first day of the week, the question foremost in their minds was. “who would roll away the large stone blocking the entrance to the tomb so they could anoint Jesus’ dead body?” They are worrying about who will roll away the stone for them because that obstacle is too large for them to move on their own, but when they arrive God has already taken care of it. Often times in life we spend many wasted hours worrying about things that never take place or that we never have to face. God has gone before us and cleared the path, made a way, or rolled away the stone.  This is a lesson of Easter that is often overlooked in the amazing news of Jesus’ resurrection, but it is a very important thing to remember. Rather than worrying about how we will roll away stones that are so large and heavy and seemingly immovable and getting all stressed out about it and putting pressure on ourselves to figure it out, we’re invited to learn from the women’s experience to trust God for our future.

This message of hope against our fears is so needed today! I read an article recently from American Psychiatric Association that compared to the results of a similar poll a year earlier, 39 percent of adults in the U.S. are more anxious today than they were a year ago.  They add that anxiety is rising across all age groups and demographic categories.  Anxiety and fear may be common and on the rise but we are taught by Jesus “not to worry” and by Paul or “not to be anxious

Hannah Whitall Smith author of The Christian’s Secret of a Happy Life, wrote, “Most Christians are like a man who was toiling along the road, bending under a heavy burden, when a wagon overtook him, and the driver kindly offered to help him on his journey. He joyfully accepted the offer, but when seated, continued to bend beneath his burden, which he still kept on his shoulders. “Why do you not lay down your burden?” asked the kind-hearted driver. “Oh!” replied the man, “I feel that it is almost too much to ask you to carry me, and I could not think of letting you carry my burden too.” And so Christians, who have given themselves into the care and keeping of the Lord Jesus, still continue to bend beneath the weight of their burden, and often go weary and heavy-laden throughout the whole length of their journey.”

The women are acting in love and devotion in going to the tomb, but they are burdened with worry about the stone blocking their path. Yet God has already gone ahead of them, even as God goes ahead of us to prepare the way for us when are seeking to live in faith and obedience. If you have a stone you’re worried about rolling away, I encourage you to release your burden to God and trust the Mighty One to roll it away for you.

Next they were invited to “Come and See” that the tomb was empty.

You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him.

There is much evidence for the empty tomb.  A former atheist Lee Strobel researched the empty tomb of Christ and became a believer.  He has written great books such as, The Case for Christ. 

In this short 2 minute video, he shares 4 Evidences or reasons to believe the tomb was empty.

No one could keep Jesus in the grave. The religious big shots who wanted him out of the way failed to do it; the power of the Roman army and justice system could not hold him; even the lack of faith on the part of the disciples couldn’t keep him dead. They expected to find Jesus when he promised he would not be there. God’s power to raise Jesus is greater than any power in the universe. Trust God’s promises. He is greater than all our problems or infirmities. The Resurrection assures us that Christ is alive and real.

Lastly they were invited to Go and Tell Others

7  But go, tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.’

These three women faced three overwhelming problems as they set out to honor Jesus’ body. First, they were grieved, sad and depressed their friend was gone, second the soldier guard would prevent them; third the rock in the tomb’s doorway would be too heavy to move; and fourth as women their testimony to such a miraculous event would have been considered legally worthless in a court of law!   Against such obstacles, what could these three women expect to accomplish? Yet urged on by love and gratitude, they were determined to do what they could.

The church’s mission—to send the gospel to all the world—is fraught with overwhelming problems. Any one of them appears devastating. Against human stubbornness, disease, danger, loneliness, sin, greed, and even church strife and corruption, what can a few missionaries accomplish? Yet like these solitary women on that Sunday morning, we go out with love and gratitude for Jesus and leave the big obstacles with God.

We are invited and challenged to become part of God’s plan to tell others the Easter story. The message for them and for us is this: Jesus goes before us, just as he told us. Jesus goes ahead and to see him we need to keep trusting his word and keep moving forward in life. In the command of the messenger lies the promise of forgiveness, hope, and new life.

The promise of forgiveness is that Jesus doesn’t give up on us when we fail. That is why Peter is specifically mentioned. He was the leader among the disciples and the one who denied Jesus three times. Yet Jesus is looking forward to seeing him in Galilee as well. Peter will be forgiven. Forgiveness gives people second chances.  Even when we have failed Jesus, he still goes on before us telling us what to do next on our journey of life and faith, if we’re ready to resume following him with all our heart.  Part of the hope of Easter is a fresh start and renewed purpose for disciples who have denied and betrayed Jesus.

We too can betray our friend Jesus in many ways: when we give in to the pressures of temptations and trials, when we have spoken words or made decisions that contradict who God calls us to be; when we have forsaken our commitments, neglected the poor, ignored the lost, or failed to devote our time and resources to matters of eternal consequence.

Jesus knows how his disciples fail him then and now, yet he still goes before us, inviting us to meet him and to resume the journey together. The messenger knows who the women are looking for – they are looking for Jesus.  Who or what are you looking for today?  Where are you looking for answers to life’s most important questions?  The answers are found in Jesus our resurrected hero.

Darrell

www.Upwards.Church

 

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