God’s Plan (Judges 13)

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In today’s chapter we get the back story to the last Judge risen in this book. After the death of Abdon, Israel turned back to their evil ways. An angel came to the wife of a man named Manoah. She had been unable to conceive, but the angel told her that she was going to give birth to a son. There was a list of rules for her to follow during her pregnancy and over the child’s life, most importantly that he was to be dedicated to God. The symbol of his dedication was that his hair must never be cut.  After telling her husband what had happened, he prayed that God would send the angel back. When he returned, he explained everything to Manoah as well. Manoah made a sacrifice to God, and the angel ascended in the flames. When the boy was born, they named him Samson.

God has a plan for each one of us. A plan that started before we took our first breath. Are we listening to God’s direction for that plan? He tells us “For I know the plans that I have for you, plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11, NASB). God’s plans are meant for good. This doesn’t mean we won’t have hard times. Jesus’ life was certainly not easy or happy all the time, it had lots of pain and suffering. Yet, his life was the biggest part of God’s plan. I say this because I don’t want us to think that living according to God’s plan makes life easy.

Are you following His plan, or yours? It’s a question that we must ask ourselves everyday. If you find yourself living counter to what God is wanting from you, let’s spend sometime re-purposing our lives today. We should be doing all things for the glory of God, no matter the cost. So let’s spend some time in prayer and worship today.

Also in this series

 

Psalms to Pray: Psalm 68

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Need Some Help (Judges 12)

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After Jephthah received victory over the Ammonites, he was approached by the people of Ephraim (one of the twelve tribes of Israel). The asked him why they did not call upon them to help with their enemy. Jephthah responded, “I summoned you at the beginning of the dispute, but you refused to come! You failed to help us in out struggle against Ammon. So when I realized you weren’t coming, I risked my life and went to battle without you, and the Lord gave me victory over the Ammonites. So why have you now come to fight me?” (12:2-3, NLT). This encounter turned into a war among the two groups of Israelites. Jephthah once again became victorious, but at the cost of 42,000 Ephraimite lives. After Jephthah’s death, Ibzan became Judge. Afterwards Elon became Judge. Than after his death, Abdon became Judge.

Have you ever had people question your motives, or why you did something? Even to the point where you begin to doubt yourself? Well I certainly have. It’s not a great feeling. This is what the Ephraimites were doing to Zephthah. But we can take a lesson on how Zephthah handled the situation. I’m not saying we should go to war with people over this, but he gave us a good example to live by.

Sometimes we simply need help. So what do you do when you need help? You ask. This gives people the opportunity to either be apart of what you are doing or not. The problem always comes with success though. When things start going well, or we are recognized for our achievements, we never run out of people offering to help. People always want to help when they can receive some positive views on their reputation, but don’t want to take risks when the future seems uncertain or unfavorable.

The last place is where God likes to put us. He loves to ask us to do things where we can’t see the outcome. I think that this places us in a place of dread or fear. Things will be risky and they may seem unfavorable. I think of the Apostles in the book of Acts. Jesus told them to go and make disciples, and off they went. But I’m sure each one of them had a certain fear for their lives. Especially Paul. He knew first hand exactly how far the Jews were willing to go to put a stop to the followers of Christ.

But how do we deal with these “glory seekers”? If we follow Zephthah’s example, the answer is quite simple. Our task/goal has not changed from the beginning, so why do they want to help now? They want to look good. We have to call each other out when we are not seeking to glorify God. If that is the true reason for the new offer of help, you will know.

Is God asking you to help someone today? Or maybe he’s asking you to take on a whole new venture, and wants you to seek help. So let’s spend some time in prayer today, to discern God’s direction for our lives; how we can help glorify Him, or new ways we can bring Him glory.

Also in this series

Psalms to Pray: Psalm 66-67

UPDATE I forgot to mention this when I originally made this post. Since today is Shine a Light on Slavery Day I suggest going to this site and seeing if you can get involve to help stop slavery in the world! http://www.enditmovement.com/

It Takes Sacrifice (Judges 11)

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Today’s chapter has two distinct sections. The first section we see the life of the next Judge of Israel, Jephthah. We see that he is a illegitimate child, and was chased away by his father’s “actual” sons. But during the oppression by the Ammonites that we read about yesterday, the sons of Gilead came back to Jephthah and asked him to rule over them and lead them in battle. In the second section we see a prayer from Jephthah. He prayed, “If you give me victory over the Ammonites, I will give to the Lord whatever comes out of my house to meet me when I return in triumph. I will sacrifice it as a burnt offering.” (11:30-31, NLT). Upon returning home, Jephthah’s daughter, his only child, came out of the house celebrating her father’s victory. After telling her what he must now do, he sent her away for two months to grieve over the rest of her life and the fact she wouldn’t ever have children.

In order to receive blessing from God, a sacrifice must be made. The bigger the blessing, the more costly the sacrifice. The book of Leviticus is full of directions for sacrifice, what to sacrifice for which situation. But here, Jephthah gave a fairly open ended sacrifice. He wasn’t simply asking for victory over the Ammonites, he was also asking for God to come back to the nation of Israel. So the sacrifice had to be large. Jephthah was going to have to give up his one and only child for the salvation of the Israelites. Sounds a little familiar doesn’t it?

“For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, …” (Romans 8:3, NASB). There is no amount of sacrifice that we could give to overcome our sin, because the sacrifice was more than anyone could give. So God did what no man could do; He gave the greatest sacrifice so we could receive the greatest blessing of all time. Jesus did not die simply because it was in God’s plan. He died because God loved you and me so much that He wanted to gives us a way to be with Him.

Life is hard, and to receive blessing will take sacrifice. But thank goodness the price has been paid for our sins.

Also in this series

 

Psalms to Pray: Psalm 61-65

Remaining Faithful (Judges 10)

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Sorry for running late today. It’s been very busy here in my neck of the woods!

In today’s chapter, first we meet Tola. He became a judge, and lived and died. The came Jair. He became judge, and lived and died.Then Israel did the same thing they always do; they began to worship other gods. This time the Ammonites became their oppressors. Eventually (I’m assuming after several years) the Israelites turned back to God. They asked for salvation. His response was unexpected, “Did I not rescue you from the Egyptians, the Amorites, the Ammonites, the Philistines, the Sidonians, the Amalekites, and the Maonites? When they oppressed you, you cried out to me for help, and I rescued you. Yet you have abondoned me and sever other gods. So I will not rescue you anymore. Go and cry out to the gods you have chosen! Let them rescue you in your hour of distress!” (10:11-14, NLT). The Israelites still chose to plead with Him and seek after Him, but they had to meet their oppressors in battle.

It seems that the Israelites had finally found God’s breaking point. For around 250  years, His people were in a cycle of rebellion then submission. They would not keep His Commandments. The only reason they would stay loyal was because of the Judge that was living at the time. But as soon as the Judge died, the people turned away from Him to some false God.

Many people would say “Wait hold on a minute. God doesn’t leave His people or say that He won’t save them. What is going on here?” I would have to agree. We know that God will not “fail [us] or forsake [us]” (Deuteronomy 31:6, 8, NASB). But there is a verse that gives reason to what God is doing. “Understand, therefore, that the Lord your God is indeed God. He is the faithful God who keeps his covenant for a thousand generations and lavishes his unfailing love on those who love him and obey his commands.” (Deuteronomy 7:9, NLT).

Did you catch that? It’s a part that I think we all seem to forget at times, “those who love him and obey his commands”. You see? This faith of ours is just saying a prayer or filling our commitment by going to church every week (or less). I feel like many of us act that way, then blame God when He hasn’t “held up His end of the bargain”. The truth is that God did all He had to do upon the Cross. Yet we all wonder why God isn’t blessing me? Or why does He seem to have abandoned me? There should be a different question that we ask when we feel this way. Have I been faithful? Do I love God? Have I been keeping His Commandments? If we don’t want God to forsake us, we must remain faithful to Him, just as He is faithful to us.

At the end of this story we see that the Israelites faith helps them. It says, “Then the Israelites put aside their foreign gods and served the Lord. And he was grieved by their misery.” (10:16, NLT). Despite God telling them that He would not save them, when they turned their hearts to Him, He had to act. The same goes for us. We are never to far gone to receive God’s love. All we have to do is turn our hearts to Him and remain faithful.

Also in this series

 

Psalms to Pray: Psalm 59-60

Are You Ambitious? (Judges 9)

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In today’s chapter we see some what happened after Gideon’s death. Abimelech went to his relatives on his mother’s side and asked them a simple question,  “[Do you] want to be ruled by all seventy of Gideon’s sons or by one man?” (9:2, NLT). His intention was for them to give him their support, so he could overcome all of his half-brothers. After they said they wanted Abimelech to be their ruler, he hired a band of “reckless trouble-makers” (9:4, NLT) and killed all but one of Gideon’s other sons. Jotham, the one who survived, made this proclamation to the people of Shechem, “If you have acted honorably and in good faith toward Gideon and his descendants today, then may you find joy in Abimelech, and may he find joy in you. But if you have not acted in good faith, then may fire come out from Abimelech and devour the leading citizens of Shechem and Beth-millo; and may fire come out from the citizens of Shechem and Beth-millo and devour Abimelech.” (9:19-20, NLT). After three years of ruling, Gaal came up against Abimelech. Two battles are recorded, with the last one taking Abimelech’s life.

Abimelech was acting in his own interests. He had no concern for other people, he simply wanted power. He clearly did not learn from his father. We saw in the last chapter that the people asked Gideon to become their king. He refused and requested that they put their faith in God to rule over them. Abimelech acted completely differently. He sought power, and was willing to do anything to take it. He even went to the extreme of killing all of his brothers!

There are many examples in the Bible that warn against this kind of ambition. I believe that ambition can be good, if used for the glory of God. But Abimelech only acted for himself. Paul writes, “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.” (Philippians 2:3, NASB). When we think of only ourselves, we hurt others. This is the opposite of what it means to be a follower of Christ. To follow Christ means that we should first be seeking God’s interests, which most often means to put others before ourselves. Jesus said, “Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled’ and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted” and “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness” (Matthew 23:12, 6:33, NASB). This says to be that God wants us to care for others above ourselves. It also shows me the importance of being ambitious, so long as it is ambitiousness for God.

Ambition can be a great tool, it’s only when it is used for personal gain that it is bad. If we constantly focus our lives on God, our ambition will follow after Him as well.

 

Also in this series

 

Psalms to Pray: Psalm 57-58

Are You Obeying (Judges 8)

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First off let me say, I spent way too much time thinking on yesterday’s chapter. It got to the point I ran out of time in my day and here we are missing a post. We will see if I can get Judges 9 out later today. But here we go with Judges 8!

In yesterday’s chapter, we saw Gideon continuing on against the Midianites. This time he was following after their kings, Zebah and Zalmunna. While chasing them down, Gideon stopped at two different cities, Succoth and Peniel, to ask for provisions for himself and his men. Both cities refused, thus aligning themselves against Israel and with the Midianites. Gideon promised them, after he catches Zebah and Zalmunna, he would return to their cities and punish them for their betrayal. After all of these events finish, Gideon retires back to his home as a very rich man and a trusted leader for the Israelites. They even asked him to become their king (foreshadowing what happens in 1 Samuel), but Gideon tells them, “I will not rule over you, nor will my son. The Lord will rule over you!” (8:23, NLT).

The thing that had gotten me thinking was the refusal of the people of Succoth and Peniel to cooperate with Gideon and his army. Both of these cities were Israelite cities, not some foreign city, but they chose to abandon their people and their God in order to appease their oppressors. What did God do about this? He had Gideon punish the people of Succoth with “thorns and briers from the wilderness” (8:16) and tear down the fortress of Peniel.

But this is where I struggled with this post. What does this mean for us today? I think this is here to teach us not to go against the wishes of God. Maybe the people didn’t have to provisions that Gideon was asking for. Maybe they feared for their lives if the Medianites won against Gideon. Who knows? But God lead Gideon to them for a reason. It reminds me of another story where a similar situation happened, but something totally different occurred.

In 1 Kings 17, the prophet Elijah is living through a drought. God has been providing for him by sustaining a brook and having ravens bring him food. One day the brook dries up, so God sends Elijah to Zarephath to a widow and her son. Elijah asks for a drink and some bread. The woman replies “As the Lord your God lives, I have no bread, only a handful of flour in the bowl and a little oil in the jar; and behold, I am gathering a few sticks that I may go in and prepare for me and my son, that we may eat it and die.” (1 Kings 17:12, NASB). But Elijah insists that she make him bread first, then herself and son second. When she did this, her flour and oil did not run out for days!

God puts us in situations where we can either obey Him and be blessed, or disobey and be punished. Sometimes the punishment is like the ones we find here in Judges, sometimes its by living without the blessing God was about to give you. The widow could have refused Elijah and made bread for only her and her son since they had nothing, but instead she obeyed and was blessed with more than she needed.

What is God calling you to do? Are you obeying or not? Spend some time in prayer with me today as we try to figure out if we are doing what God is calling us to do. We have to be open to His guidance no matter what it may be. He may ask us to give up what little we have, but it’s only to bless us with abundance. Trust in Him! He knows what He is doing.

 

Also in this series

We Don’t Need More (Judges 7)

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In today’s chapter, Gideon defeats the Midianite army. Gideon amasses a large army of 32,000 men, from the areas of Manasseh, Asher, Zebulun, and Nephtali. God calls Gideon to send away several of the men so that God’s glory and power can come through the victory over the Midianites. By the time it was over, Gideon was left with 300 members for his army. Then, in the middle of the night, Gideon surrounded the Midianite camp and they all blew their horns. The Midianites were thrown into a frenzy and began attacking each other so they could escape. Gideon and his men became victorious and chased down the rest of their enemy’s army.

The thing that astonished me about this chapter was God’s call to make Gideon’s army smaller. He had originally brought together 32,000 men to join in his fight against the Midianites. God told him to send some home, and Gideon lost 2/3 of his entire military (he was left with 10,000). Yet, God still wanted him to sacrifice more. So God sent away all but 300 of Gideon’s army. God left Gideon with less than 1% of his original army! Still, Gideon was able to overcome the Midianite army. Why? It’s because he trusted God to go before them in battle and over come the enemy.

What does this mean for us today? The world often tells us that we need more, more, more! I know I feel this in music ministry. Sometimes I feel, “If only I can get more musicians” or “If only we had a better sound system” or “If only we had more money to increase production value” and so on. But God doesn’t want us to increase. He often causes us to decrease, so that His glory can be shown even better. Jesus told his disciples, “Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit.” (John 15:2, NASB). God likes to make us smaller, so that when we overcome great obstacles, the only possible reason we succeed is Him. If you are in a time of “pruning”, I ask you to remain in Him. He isn’t trying to punish you. He is trying to help you be able to glorify Him even better.

 

Also in this series

 

Psalms to Pray: Psalm 56

Staring Down the Mob (Judges 6)

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In today’s chapter, God raises up the fifth Judge in Israel’s history, Gideon. After 7 years of oppression from the Midianites, God tells Gideon that he will rescue Israel from them. God then called Gideon to break down an altar to Baal that was within his town, and cut down the Asherah poles. When he did, he then built an altar to God in their place and sacrificed a bull. Then the people of Midian, Amalek and others in the east formed an alliance against the people of Israel. Gideon called forth an army from the people of Manasseh, Asher, Zebulun, and Nephtali. Gideon then asked God to give him two signs to prove that God was going to use him to bring His people out of oppression.

The most meaningful part of this chapter, to me, was Joash’s reaction to what Gideon had done to the altar of Baal. Upon discovering that the altar had been destroyed, the people formed a mob and searched for the person responsible. After asking around they discovered that Gideon was responsible. The mob approached his father’s house and demanded that Gideon be handed over to them so he could be killed. Joash’s response was, “Why are you defending Baal? Will you argue his case? Whoever pleads his case will be put to death by morning! If Baal truly is a god, let him defend himself and destroy the one who broke down his altar” (6:31, NLT). Joash was defending his son and also calling out the false God. Joash knew that the Israelites were not to worship other gods. So this was also a play to bring the people back to God.

How hard is it for us to stand up for what is right? Especially when everyone around is telling you that you are wrong? God calls us to stand up for righteousness, and fight off the ways of the world. The mob that formed was telling Joash’s family that it is wrong for them to worship any god but Baal. Yet the first Commandment stands against this. Which is right? And which is easier to stand up for? Being against everyone around is a hard place to be. But God doesn’t ask us to agree with the people around us. He asks us to follow Him, and live according to His Word. It’s not easy. It may cause you to stand up to a mob. But that’s the life that we are called to live, because that’s the life Jesus lead. He faced people who were against him all the way until he died on the Cross. So we must stand strong, and know that God is with us! “What shall we say about such wonderful things as these? If God is for us, who can ever be against us?” (Romans 8:31, NLT).

Also in this series

 

Psalms to Pray: Psalm 55

Fill Me Up

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This week’s song for Worship Sunday, has been one that I wrote myself.

It came during a time over the summer that I was spending time outside every morning, reading my Bible and singing songs to God. I was meditating on the 42nd Psalm.  It reads like this:

“As a deer pants for the water brooks,
So my soul pants for you, O God.
My soul thirst for God, for the living God:
When shall I come and appear before God?”
–Psalm 42:1-2, NASB

This song to me, is all about the pursuit of God that happens in worship. We seek after Him, because He is God and we want more of Him. That’s our soul’s desire. We want to be closer to Him; He is good and pure and we are not, because of our sin. We want to be made more of God. I think about John the Baptist’s testimony, when he says “He must increase, but I must decrease.” (John 3:30, NASB).

We all need more of God, and our hearts and souls are longing for Him. I hope you can spend some time in worship or simply just meditating on the thought today. Simply ask God to “fill my cup with Your living water!”

PS I put a recording of this song here. It’s not the greatest, but I hope you enjoy it.

This Week’s Set

  • Fill Me Up
  • In Christ Alone (arr. Kristian Stanfill)
  • Nothing But The Blood (Matt Redman)
  • How Great Is Our God (Chris Tomlin)
  • Forever (Chris Tomlin)
  • All Creatures of Our God and King (hymn)

Psalms to Pray: Psalm 48-54

Being Thankful (Judges 5)

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In today’s chapter, Deborah and Barak sing a song. This song is a song meant for worship. It retells all the events from chapter 4, with some other bits added in. The purpose was to give God thanks for all that He had done through them, and for deliverance from their Canaanite oppressors.

I think that there is a simple lesson to be learned from this chapter. We pray and ask for God’s help with many situations in our lives. But how often do we turn around and thank Him for what He has done? Being a task oriented person, I tend to move one when something gets accomplished, no matter how difficult. There have been things where I have really needed God’s help, and spent lots of time in prayer over these matters. But wants it’s done, I go onto the next thing. But I should slow down and spend some time thanking God for His provision and help. It’s easy not to do this, but I think that it is the lesson that Deborah and Barak teach us in this chapter of Judges.

Let’s spend some time being thankful to God today. You can give Him thanks for anything, just acknowledge Him today.

 

Also in this series

Psalms to Pray: Psalm 45-47