Monday, April 15, 2019

OBEDIENCE IS BETTER THAN SACRIFICE

The sovereign, infinite and eternal God has purposes that are often beyond our understanding, for His thoughts are higher than our thoughts (Isaiah 55:9). His commands and instructions are not without purpose, for His will is to spare us from unwanted consequences, as seen in King Saul’s willful disobedience.

God had commanded King Saul to kill Amalek, the grandson of Esau, who had sold his birthright to his brother, Jacob, for a pot of stew. The Amalekites, descendants of Amalek, had attacked Israel on its wilderness journeys from Egypt and then went on to inhabit the territory assigned to Israel, Judah, and the region east of the Jordan River that forms the main part of Jordan.

God had told King Saul through the prophet, Samuel, to kill and “utterly destroy” all of the Amalekites, their belongings and livestock and not spare “one” of them (vs.3). It was not Saul’s place to question God’s reasoning nor to rescind His command; he was to obey His instructions. 

Saul disobeyed God and kept what appeared good and destroyed only those things he considered worthless. This greatly angered God, so He said to Samuel, “I am grieved that I have made Saul king, because he has turned away from Me and has not carried out My instruction” (I Samuel 15:11)

Samuel confronted Saul, “[God] sent you on a mission, saying, ‘Go and completely destroy those wicked people, the Amalekites; make war on them until you have wiped them out.’ Why did you not obey the LORD? Why did you pounce on the plunder and do evil in the eyes of the LORD?” (vs.16-19)

Saul refused to admit his flagrant disobedience, “But I did obey the LORD. I went on the mission the LORD assigned me. I completely destroyed the Amalekites and brought back [King Agag]. The people took sheep and cattle from the plunder, the best of what was devoted to God, in order to sacrifice them to the LORD your God at Gilgal” (I Samuel 15: 20-21).

Saul tried to absolve himself of his disobedience by blaming the people. However, Samuel quickly answered: “Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the voice of the LORD? To obey is better than sacrifice and to [listen] is better than the fat of rams. For rebellion (disobedience) is like the sin of [witchcraft] and arrogance like the evil of idolatry. Because you have rejected the Word of the LORD, He has rejected you as king” (I Samuel 15:22-23).

What things has God told us to destroy or to put away? Have we been offering sacrifices of time and works in place of obedience? God’s Word instructs us to destroy anything that is in opposition to His Word and will. If we justify and excuse our actions and hold on to sins, addictions, wrong habits, wrong thoughts, material things, or anything that keeps us from His presence, then those acts of rebellion and disobedience open a door for the enemy to attack and torment us. God wants obedience and not excuses. 

God is quick to forgive when we acknowledge our disobedience, repent, and turn from repeating that sin. We are then able to receive God’s forgiveness. Sadly, Saul refused to acknowledge his sin. His disobedience would allow Esau’s descendants to become a great race, that to this day, seeks to destroy Israel and its people (I Samuel 15:2). Thus, God, in His righteous judgment, withdrew His Spirit and His mercy from Saul (I Samuel 16:14)

God will not always strive with those who willfully disobey Him and refuse to acknowledge their sin. If they are not submitted under God’s grace and authority, then they are under the authority of the evil one. Any attempt to deny, hide, or justify willful disobedience will one day bring that individual before the Lord, who will expose their deepest secrets and reveal their private motives (I Corinthians 4:5)

King Saul had served and loved God and had expelled mediums and spiritualists from the land. Yet he became a man who walked in rebellion and sought a soothsayer to find answers when God would not answer him. Eventually, Saul became so tormented that he took his own life. This was not God’s plan for Saul. How did he start so well and end so tragically?

Disobedience separates us from God’s plan and connects us to Satan’s evil agenda. Our decision to obey or disobey God will determine how we finish the race. Unlike Saul, we want to be able to say on that final day, “I have fought the good fight; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7) 

Pride, carnal desires, and rebellion will always rob us of God's best, as well as the joy that comes from doing His will. If we refuse to
surrender to the Lord, we forfeit the amazing potential that is within us. Jesus said that those who lose their life for His sake gain it, and those who hold on to their life will surely lose it (Luke 9:24). 

We need to ask, “Am I resisting God’s will.”  Let me assure you that true fulfillment never comes from charting a path that is separate from God’s will. We cannot allow fear of failure or the world's enticements to pull us away from God's purposes. 

Do we have our hearts firmly fixed on Jesus Christ, or are we overwhelmed with trials, disappointments, and problems? Maybe we have become complacent and comfortable with life, relationships, families, jobs, and all the material things that provide pleasure and financial security? What if the things that give us pleasure, comfort, joy, and security were suddenly and unexpectedly gone, as they were with Job? 

The Apostle Paul understood that his contentment, peace, and joy would never come from the world. It would arise out of those deep reserves of faith and love, solidly affixed to his abiding trust in Jesus Christ (Philippians 4:12-13)

God says that He will instruct us and teach us in the way we should go; He will guide us with His eye (Psalm 32:8 NKJV). If any lacks wisdom, we can ask, and He gives generously to all without finding fault (James 1:5). Our part is to trust in the LORD with all our heat and lean not on our own understanding. In all our ways, we are to submit to Him, and He will make our paths straight (Proverbs 3:5-6). Most importantly, He will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are unwavering, because they trust in Him (Isaiah 26:3).

PRAYER:
Father, I confess that I have been running from Your will and living according to my own agenda. Forgive my rebellion. I ask for Your direction and counsel. I surrender my mind, will, emotions, and life to You. Lead me in paths of righteousness that I may become the person whom You created me to be, so I may fulfill Your calling and destiny for my life. In Jesus’ name, amen.
                                                                                                                               




                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         


Monday, April 1, 2019

I CALL THEM ALL BY NAME



Yours, O LORD, is the greatness and the power 
and the glory and the victory and the majesty, 
for all that is in the heavens and in the earth is yours.
Yours is the kingdom, O LORD, and 
You are exalted as head above all. 
(I Chronicles 29:11)


I was reading Psalm 147 when my eyes stopped on verse four, "I count the stars and call them all by name." Consider the enormity of this statement! Stars are not randomly scattered throughout space. They are grouped together in immense galaxies. The sun belongs to the Milky Way Galaxy. 

Astronomers estimate that the Milky Way Galaxy contains approximately 100 thousand million stars. Outside the galaxy, there are about 10 billion galaxies in the observable universe! The number of stars in each galaxy varies, but assuming an average of 100 billion stars are in each galaxy, that means there are about one billion trillion stars in the observable universe. This does not include galaxies of stars beyond our ability to capture them on sophisticated instruments. Therefore, we can safely say that the universe has order and was not a random happenstance, as many scientists would have us believe.

Amidst these mind-bending numbers, meditate on the fact that the God of the universe cares so much for each star He created, that He gave each a name! However, God's naming of the stars should not surprise us. After all, He numbered every hair on each head (Matthew 10:30). He even knows our names for He says, "Behold, I have engraved you on the palms of My hands (Isaiah 49:16). 

His immense love for all His creation is beyond our comprehension, with His greatest expression of love openly displayed upon the cross of Calvary. “Oh, that men would give thanks to the Lord for His goodness, and for His wonderful works to the children of men! For He satisfies the longing soul and fills the hungry soul with goodness” (Psalm 107:8-9).

"Every good and every perfect gift is from above and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning" (James 1:17). "He is good to all, and His tender mercies are over all His works" (Psalm 145:9)

God has great compassion for His children, and for those who fear (honor) Him. For He knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust (Psalm 103:13-14). For God said, “In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread till you return to the ground. For out of it you were taken; For dust you are, and to dust you shall return” (Genesis 3: 19)

The enemy of our soul would have those who believe in God, to also believe that He does not care about them, and that He is a distant deity, far beyond the cosmos, who has no time for them and their concerns. However, His word tells us that His plans are not for harm but to give us a hope and a future (Jereiah 29:11). We are His workmanship created in Christ Jesus for good works, which He prepared beforehand that we should walk in them (Ephesians 2:10)

God goes before us and makes a way. He is with us and will never leave or forsake us. Therefore, He tells us not to be dismayed (Deuteronomy 31:8). For He will not allow our foot to slip. He who keeps us will not slumber (Psalm 121:3). His watchful eye is always upon us.

There are those who ask, “If God is so good and cares about us, then why does He allow evil? As far back as the Garden of Eden, man was given the ability to choose between good and evil. Sin is the antithesis of obedience because sin transgresses God’s laws and commandments (Deuteronomy 9:7). Adam and Eve transgressed God’s command not to eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 2:3).  

America, once known as “One Nation Under God,” has transgressed God’s commands and laws and has become a rebellious, polytheistic, multicultural, atheistic nation, that mocks God, His Word, tolerates all manner of sin, and persecutes those who hold to the truths of God’s Word. People have become so debased in their thinking that abortion and the genocide of full-term babies is sanctioned.

God is calling us to search our hearts and see if there is anything that we are doing, believing, or thinking that He considers sin. It is better to repent and ask for His forgiveness then to have those sins openly exposed by God who is El Roi, "The God who sees me." 

No thought or action can be hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open (Luke 8:17 NIV). For He knows our thoughts before we speak them. He knows our hearts, even when we do not fully know our own heart. His love for us is so greatthat He does not want us to be straddled with sin of any kind, because He knows sin’s destination.  

Christians commit sin. Some know full well the sin they are in and some do not recognize their actions as being sin, because the world has persuaded them that what was once wrong is now right. However, God tells us that if we are truly living by the Spirit, then we should be walking by the Spirit, because the Spirit gives life, but the flesh profits nothing (Galatians 5:19-21 ESV; John 6:63). 

The Spirit of God wrote the Word of God and breathed His Word into those He had chosen to record His Word (2 Peter 1:21). If we allow His Spirit to indwell us, He will be our Comforter, Counselor, Intercessor, and Advocate. He will convict us of sin. He will guide and direct us and reveal all truth. He will be our Teacher and the Spirit of life working in and through us. 

God is calling America to repentance. He says, “If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land (2 Chronicles 7:14 NKJV)


Like David, we need to say to God, “Search me, God, and know my heart; try me and know my anxieties and see if there is any wrong way in me and lead me in the way everlasting” (Psalm 139:23-24).

God is love. “All things were created through Him and for Him” (Colossians 1:16). His magnanimous love is directed to us and calls us to a life of hope, faith, truth, and obedience. May we continually recognize His goodness, mercy, and forgiveness, which He extends to all who call upon His name. 

PRAYER: FATHER, it is Your hand that laid the foundations of the earth. Your right hand spread out the heavens above. You call out the stars and they appear in order. Nothing is too hard for You. (Isaiah 48:13; Jeremiah 32:17). You know all things, and You know my heart. If there is any sin in my life, cause me to see it with Your eyes, repent of it, and turn away from it. For Your Word says that if I confess my sins, You are faithful and just and will forgive my sins and purify me from all unrighteousness (I John 1:9). In Jesus’ name, amen.