The Chance to Repent

For a “man after God’s own heart,” David displays an incredible ability to sin in such a way that the people around him are greatly affected. This time it is David’s pride that is the struggle. The shepherd boy who stood before King Saul and proclaimed that the God who killed the lion and the bear could defeat the Philistines has now confused the strength of God and the strength of men. David has ordered a census to be taken of the fighting men of Israel. David is proud of his armies and wants to know the exact strength of his fighting force. Reading through the Bible, we don’t get the sense that this is merely a chance to assess his army, but a display of might. David wants people to see how strong he has become. He wants those around him to know of his ability and his influence. David, for the moment, has forgotten that it is not the armies that fight his battles, it is God who brings victory.

As David looks upon his own strength, God confronts the sin of David. David must choose a punishment. The punishment will display the weakness of the land and its people. David chooses plague and 70,000 fall before the devastating effects of an angel who delivers the judgment of God. Remember, judgment is also a call to repentance. God does not just absentmindedly issue death and destruction. God is calling the people to see their weakness. No one can stop the plague. The people must call on God. David must lead the repentance.

Even in this moment, the love of God can be seen. As the angel nears Jerusalem, God stops the plague. He relents. Why? I believe it is a chance for repentance. God sends a messenger named Gad to David. 2 Samuel 24:18-25 tells us the story. The angel of the Lord has stopped at the threshing floor of a Jebusite named Araunah. Gad tells David that he must erect an altar on this very spot. David goes to offer his worship and his repentance to God. Arriving at the threshing floor, Aruanah comes out and offers to give David the land, the oxen, and the wood in order for him to build the altar and offer sacrifice. David will not simply take the land. He knows that his sin has come with a cost. He will not offer worship to the Lord that costs him nothing. David pays for what Aruanah offers and follows the directions of Gad. The plague continues no farther.

It is again an incredible story. And it begins with the heart of God. Through David has sinned and judgment has come, God looks for a way to stop the pain and offer David a chance at repentance. You and I stand with the same God. Though our lives are marred by sin, sin that leads to death, God is calling us out of sin and pain into a relationship with Him. God wants to change our circumstances, to cleanse the sin and heal the hurt. He has sent us messengers and messages through the biblical writers and the stories that we are reading. These messages call us out of sin and give us direction to follow God. He is waiting for us to come to our senses and open our eyes. God is providing a place of sacrifice and worship. A place of hope and healing.

Take a step back and you can see that God is not just working in this moment. God has been working through history to bring man into forgiveness and peace. In 2 Chronicles 3:1, we see that the threshing floor of Aruanah is located on Mount Moriah. Look back through the Bible and you will se some startling lessons. Moriah is the place where Abraham was called to sacrifice Isaac. It is the place where God provided a different sacrifice, a sacrifice that would save the life of Abraham’s son.

Moriah is the place where God stopped the plague that ravaged the land in the time of David. It is the place where God offered worship and repentance instead of war and punishment.

Moriah is the place where Solomon would build the Temple. God provides for a place where Israel can come to receive mercy, grace, and reconciliation.

Not very far from that same Temple, that same threshing floor, God would once again offer a sacrifice to save the lives of men. God would pause to offer man a choice of life over death, relationship over rebellion. God would give His Son, His only Son, as a sacrifice for our sin. An offer of restoration and peace.

David would not offer God something that cost him nothing. Our worship comes with a cost. God pays the cost on the cross. Will you give your life to Him?

Date Daily Reading
October 23 2 Samuel 21
October 24 2 Samuel 22
October 25 2 Samuel 23
October 26 2 Samuel 24
October 27 1 Kings 1:1-27
October 28 1 Kings 1:28-53
October 29 1 Kings 2
October 30 1 Kings 3


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In the Arms of God

David’s home is in ruins. The palace still stands, but David’s son Absalom has schemed to take the throne from his father. David has fled Jerusalem and is now a king in exile. It seems that the sin of David’s youth has come back to haunt him. The rift between father and son has caused David to mourn. In reading 2 Samuel 15 this week, take a moment to read Psalm 3. This is the writing of David as he flees Jerusalem and his son.

Psalm 3 is wonderful song of a man who struggles with conflict. David knows that his family is in trouble, but he does not know how to fix the problem. He does the smartest thing that he can, he turns to the Lord and puts the matter into the hands of God. David knows that God is the source of salvation.

It seems that every family experiences some trouble. As children grow and begin to make their own choices, parents are forced to watch their children make mistakes. Sometime rebellion marks the lives of our children. Like David, we struggle to find answers. David shows us how to seek the council of God in these moments. David reminds us that our children belong to God first and then to their parents. It is a hard lesson to learn, but God is faithful.

As David continues his time in exile, the nation suffers more and more at the hands of Absalom. War breaks out and Absalom is eventually killed. As news reaches David, there is no excitement or rejoicing. David’s son is dead. David goes into deep mourning. Of all the possible outcomes, the death of Absalom is not the wish of David. But like before, we see David throw himself into the arms of God. David seeks comfort from the only source that can give comfort in such overwhelming circumstances.

This stage of David’s life is a tragedy. There is no better way to describe it. But even in these moments, we have lessons to learn, truths to embed in our lives.

Truth 1 – we live in a broken world. Absalom is a man who struggles with sin. He has given himself over to the desires of the world. Greed, lust, and evil ambition mark his life. He has listened to the call of the world and it has separated him from a desire to follow God. It has also separated him from a relationship with his family. His conflict is seen most in the break with his father. Like Absalom, we live in a broken world. The call of the world is a powerful voice that tries to pull us away from a relationship with our Father. Each one of us must be aware that we live in tension. In the world, but not of the world.

Truth 2 – life does not always go the way we want it to go. David experienced the loss of a son, the loss of his kingdom for a time, and the loss of trust by his closest friends and advisors. You and I experience a variety of losses in our time. We can make plans for the future, work hard at our jobs, be faithful to God, and still experience troubling times. A relationship with God does not insure us from trouble. It teaches us how to walk through life. How to deal with what the world throws at us.

Truth 3 – we must throw ourselves into the arms of God. David experiences some of the most difficult circumstances that anyone can face. The death of a child is an awesome grief that lasts a lifetime. God offers Himself as the source of strength in our deepest hurts. He is a Father who knows what it means to lose a Son. He draws us close and helps us to walk through the pain and the loss that we experience in any hurt.

Date Daily Reading
October 16 2 Samuel 14
October 17 2 Samuel 15
October 18 2 Samuel 16
October 19 2 Samuel 17
October 20 2 Samuel 18
October 21 2 Samuel 19
October 22 2 Samuel 20
October 23 2 Samuel 21


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Kings and Kindness

Often times we read about the rise and fall of kings in the Bible with little thought about the ramifications that each change has on the nation. The death of popular kings would cause worry and fear about the nature of the next leader. Bad kings, unpopular with the people, would be a reason to rejoice. A change in leadership is more than just a change in names. It is an entire shift in the way that the people ae led and the future of every individual is at stake.

Saul, the first king of Israel, had begun as a popular leader. While his reputation waned the longer he ruled, there was still an element of support for Saul. The first transition of power in Israel was a messy affair. After the death of Saul, Abner, his general, took Saul’s son, Ishbosheth, and made him king. What began was a bloody conflict lasting nearly seven years. Intrigue reigned in the highest offices as Abner and Ishbosheth fought for power. Abner would eventually defect and be killed as he planned to meet with David. David then takes power but must go to battle in Jerusalem to claim it as his own. What kind of king would David make? His first years are years of battle. How would the people view this new leadership? While David honored God and seemed to remain aloof from this initial intrigue, David was still coming to power in the midst of a mess.

2 Samuel 9 records a touching story in the life of King David. It starts in 2 Samuel 4:4 where we learn that Jonathan, the beloved friend of David and the son of Saul, had a son, Mephibosheth. At the time of Saul and Jonathan’s death, Mephibosheth was 5 years old and in the care of a nurse. When word came from Jezreel, the nurse took Mephibosheth and fled. Her fear must have been great. The common practice among kings of the time was to kill all of the family of the former leader in order to secure the throne. A family with no heirs could never rise up to challenge future authority. In their haste to flee, Mephibosheth falls and becomes lame in both feet. He and his nurse go into hiding and years pass.

Pick up the story in 2 Samuel 9 and we see David remembering his time under the leadership of Saul. His love for Jonathan endures, the love of friends who shared their youth. He begins to ask if there is anyone left of the house of Saul to whom he can do a kindness. Word comes that Mephibosheth, the son of David’s friend is alive and living in Lo-debar. David sends for the man and Mephibosheth comes to David with great fear. Mephibosheth is unsure of David’s intentions, but David quickly reveals the reason for his summons. David wants to do a kindness for the son of his friend. David welcomes Mephibosheth into his home and invites him to eat at the king’s table.

It is a story that would spread far and wide in Israel. The king is not a man who is only out for destruction. He is a man who can lay aside old hatreds, a king who is confident in God’s ability to establish and maintain the throne. David is a king who offers kindness.

The story has further meaning. Lo-debar has often been translated as “no-thing.” Mephibosheth went from a future of power and influence as the king’s grandson to a nobody and a nothing. All in one night, Mephibosheth’s future was changed. His health, his ability to walk, was impaired and now Mephibosheth was living outside of the spotlight, broken and hurt. But one day a king called him. That king changed his life. No longer was Mephibosheth and outcast, he became family. He was an honored guest with all the benefits of eating at the king’s table.

Sound familiar. It should. It is the same story that you and I share. There was a time when we were hurt and broken by sin. We were nothings in the world with no hope of a future. But Jesus, our King, invited us to eat at His table. He blessed us with more than we could ask or imagine. He made us family and committed Himself to our care. He is the King who has brought kindness into our lives.

Embedding the Bible is not only about learning the past. It is about how we see God at work in our lives. So many of the stories we read are more than history. They are our story as we walk with God today.

Date Daily Reading
October 9 2 Samuel 7
October 10 2 Samuel 8
October 11 2 Samuel 9
October 12 2 Samuel 10
October 13 2 Samuel 11
October 14 2 Samuel 12
October 15 2 Samuel 13
October 16 2 Samuel 14


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I Went With You

As we leave 1 Samuel and begin 2 Samuel this week we see a shift. 1 Samuel records the work of the prophet, priest, and king maker, Samuel. We have walked through the life of Saul, the first king over Israel. But as we finish 1 Samuel, we see that both Samuel and Saul are dead. 2 Samuel begins with the anointing of David as king over Judah. After a brief power struggle, David is anointed king over Israel. He is now reigning over the entirety of God’s people.

One of the striking aspects of David’s reign is his great desire to honor God. We see this in the way that David continues to respect God’s anointing of Saul. When word comes that Saul has died, David questions the messenger closely. He finds out that this messenger was the one who took the life of God’s anointed. Broken hearted, even though Saul had treated David as an enemy, David puts to death the one who would take the life of Saul. It is a sign of David’s deep respect and reverence for the will and movement of God.

As we continue to read, we discover that David wants to honor the presence of God by building a temple to house the Ark of the Covenant. He seeks guidance from Nathan, a prophet of God. At first, Nathan tells David to do what he desires. But Nathan is soon visited by God and given a different message to give to the king. In 2 Samuel 7, Nathan goes to David and relays God’s message.

It is a reminder of relationship and covenant. God takes David back through history and reminds him that God has chosen to live among His people in the tent constructed by His design and for His purposes. God is a God who walks with His people. Through the time of the wanderings, through the conquest of Canaan, as the Judges ruled in Israel, and even in the time of David, God has chosen an intimacy that is hard to imagine. God never asked for a house to be built. He was content to go with His people through wandering and battle, through settlement and growth. God has chosen to walk among man.

At the heart of this reminder is a touching phrase. In 2 Samuel 7:9 God makes the relationship with man personal. He tells David, “I went with you…” David’s rise and success has been the work and the plan of God. But that plan was never intended to be accomplished at a distance. God had intended from the beginning to walk with David. David’s desire to honor God speaks of the relationship that they share, but David has missed a piece of the puzzle. God wanted no house of cedar, that task was already assigned to a future king, David’s son. At this moment, God wanted David to experience His presence.

The God who desired to walk closely to David wants to walk closely with you. You have become the temple of God. At baptism, God moves into your heart to take up permanent residence. Unlike any story or tale that has gone before, the truth of God’s passion for you lies in His desire to walk closely with you. He goes with you as you walk in the mundane moments of human life. He stands beside you as you relate to friends and family. He goes before you as you struggle with sin and the world. God continues to seek a relationship, a covenant with man.

As we embed the Bible this week, don’t miss the promise of God to be a part of your life. He wants to rest in your heart and shape your actions, thoughts, and feelings. He does not seek a grand home, but he does desire a permanent residence. The place He has chosen is in the center of your life.

Date Daily Reading
October 2 1 Samuel 31
October 3 2 Samuel 1
October 4 2 Samuel 2
October 5 2 Samuel 3
October 6 2 Samuel 4
October 7 2 Samuel 5
October 8 2 Samuel 6
October 9 2 Samuel 7


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Honoring God’s Leadership

One of the hardest things about being a Christian is learning to honor God’s leadership. I think that at the heart of most people there is a need to be in control. The most obvious place where we exert control is within ourselves. We like to be in control of our schedules, our habits, our desires, and our direction. This need to be in control shapes a mindset of independence that makes us believe we can accomplish what we want if we just work hard enough. The idea leads us to believe that trying hard or working hard will yield the results that we desire.

Look at our culture and you will find this to be true. Hard work leads to a better job, a bigger pay check, more security, or a happier family. If I invest the time, I can reap the benefits. And there is truth in this. Hard work is supposed to “pay off” in the end. The danger lies in thinking that if we take matters into our own hands, we accomplish the things we desire.

In a spiritual sense, this thought process can lead us to a place of rebellion. A place where we think that salvation, obedience, or surrender is about taking matters into our own hands and pushing forward through any obstacle. It allows us to set our own focus or create our own results. This in turn shapes us to believe that we set the course for our lives and that we can determine our own direction. It leads to a place where our own desires, or the way we think about what needs to happen, even in terms of what needs to happen for God, the church, and Christianity as a whole, is shaped by me. I become the focus of what is right and wrong. I set the stage for how to proceed through life. I determine the goals and the timing. And that is the wrong focus.

Honoring God’s leadership is about setting aside the self in order to focus on what God is doing. It means making hard choices that favor what God calls us to be rather than what we see we can accomplish on our own.

In 1 Samuel 24 we see David on the run from Saul. Saul has dedicated himself to the task of killing David. Saul’s dedication has made life hard for David. No longer does he live in the palace, his home has become a series of caves and camps as he flees the wrath of the king. No longer does David eat at the king’s table. He is forced to forage for food and water, seeking what he can find to feed himself and those who travel with him. David no longer has the stability he once enjoyed. He has become nomadic, always on the move, always watching over his shoulder, always knowing that Saul is looking for an opportunity to kill him. Yet, while David has a lot of uncertainty in his life, he lives with the full assurance that God is in control. David knows that he will be king someday. Samuel has poured the anointing oil on David and proclaimed God’s will for his life. (1 Samuel 16) So David waits for God’s movement. He watches for God’s hand. He surrenders the comforts of life and the stability of the palace in order to honor God’s leadership.

One day, Saul is alone in a cave. David sneaks up and cuts off a corner of the robe Saul is wearing. Saul does not notice. David could have used the knife to end Saul’s life. What stopped him? Knowing that Saul was also the anointed king of Israel. David honored the leadership of God. He knew the promises God had made, now he would wait for God’s movement to fulfill the promise. David would set aside his own plans, desires, and opportunities in order to allow God to lead. When David confronted Saul and showed him the piece of robe, David still sought to surrender his will into the hands of a king. He wanted to follow where God was leading, not forge his own path.

How hard is that? How many times do I push ahead with no thought about what God might want in a particular situation? How many times do I give a casual prayer, hoping God will bless my movement, rather than taking the time to search the will of God to see what God is doing? How many times do I make my own opportunities, rather than waiting for God to open the right doors?

Embedding the Bible is about learning to honor the leadership of God. At its heart, the word honor has to do with value. Do I value the leadership of God? Do I value His view over my own? Do I value the fact that He is watching over me? These are questions we must ask ourselves. As we continue to read, we continue to stand amazed at what is doing and can do. We see His faithfulness, His love, and His action in the lives of men and women. This exposure helps us to value what God is doing and who God is as we walk with Him.

As you embed the Bible this week, look for was to honor the leadership of God in your own life.

Date Daily Reading
September 25 1 Samuel 24
September 26 1 Samuel 25
September 27 1 Samuel 26
September 28 1 Samuel 27
September 29 1 Samuel 28
September 30 1 Samuel 29
October 1 1 Samuel 30
October 2 1 Samuel 31


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Ordinary to Extraordinary

It is the ultimate big versus little story. In fact, when we see any kind of conflict or competition where there is a vastly outnumbered, out financed, out sized match between two people or entities, we call it a “David and Goliath” match.

This week as we embed the Bible, we come to one of the best known and most loved stories in the Bible. The story of a boy who faces a giant. Books have been written about this match-up. Sermons have been preached. Movies have taken the subject and come up with scenarios based on the biblical history, a high school football team, a college basketball team, a single mom and an insurance company, and a host of other scenarios. They all look the same. Insurmountable odds face the hero. Circumstances that are out of control or out of our control rage in someone’s life. The outcome seems sure and it is hopeless to fight. But somehow, the small chance sparks our interests and grabs hold of our hearts. We begin to hope, to cheer, to root, and to plan with the hero of the story. We begin to look for ways to overcome the obstacles or change the circumstances. We begin to look for a power that can conquer the giants.

In some ways 1 Samuel 17 is a snapshot of the life lived with God. David has spent his life bringing his heart into alignment with the heart of God. David has learned obedience to his father Jesse, and obedience to his Father in heaven. Davis has given himself fully to the task of caring for sheep, and in the process, God has taught him to care for His people. David has faced the lion and the bear, and God has brought victory and confidence into the heart of David. Now David stands before a giant. A giant that has the entire army of Israel hiding in fear. Armed with five smooth stones and a sling, the only weapon that counts in David’s arsenal is his trust in a God who is faithful. David has learned to stand on God’s side, to hear God’s voice, and to follow God’s leading.

You and I face giants every day. We live in a world that shouts defiance towards God and His will. We dwell among a people of unclean lips and unclean hearts. We see physical and material objects supplanting the treasure of God in our neighborhoods, communities, and friends. We hear the call of lust that wants us to surrender to a love of power and influence. We are tempted to make everything in our lives about ourselves. But we know that God is calling us to something different. How do we learn to surrender to God when the giants come screaming at our door? We learn to surrender in the everyday moments we live.

David’s faith does not simply appear one day as he sees Goliath. It is practiced in the “ordinary” moments that he lives. You and I live in ordinary moments. These moments are times when we must give ourselves to seeing and knowing God. Mowing the lawn needs to be an acknowledgment of the blessings God rains down on His people. Playing with our family needs to point our hearts to learning the important lessons of tenderness, gentleness, accountability, and love. Our jobs are a chance to quietly and consistently learn the lessons of integrity, faithfulness, and obedience. Each moment needs to contain a spark of the holy. We need to have open eyes to see where God is moving and open ears to hear God’s call to relationship.

The giants are coming. Are we ready to face them? Have we given ourselves to the moments of learning and trusting that comes with walking in the presence of God? Embedding the Bible is about learning to see God in the moments. The moments that we face the giants, and the moments that we face the laundry. They are connected. Tied together in our hearts. When we learn to give our hearts to God in the ordinary, He can use us in the extraordinary!

Date Daily Reading
September 18 1 Samuel 17
September 19 1 Samuel 18
September 20 1 Samuel 19
September 21 1 Samuel 20
September 22 1 Samuel 21
September 23 1 Samuel 22
September 24 1 Samuel 23
September 25 1 Samuel 24


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Popularity Problems

We live in an age when popular is king. Everyone wants to be popular. We describe music and musicians as popular when we talk about pop music. They are people who produce music that the general population likes and wants to hear more of on the radio. Presidential elections concern themselves with the popular vote. Does the candidate look the right way, say the right things, come across as caring or personal? Does the platform that a candidate run on speak to my needs or desires? Teens reach an age when being popular in school is important. So they dress, act, and participate in things that will make others like them. In the hit musical Wicked, there is even a song about being popular. It talks about the way one fixes their hair, or the choice of shoes and clothing. Participating in certain sports, talking the right way, and spending time with a certain group of people. From an early age, and in a variety of ways, our culture begins to teach us that being popular is important. We see it at work, at school, and even at church.

The word popular is defined as, “regarded with favor, approval, or affection by people in general.” For the Christian, this definition ought to cause us to cringe. Why? Because popularity is based on what other people think. Popularity makes the desire of man or culture the standard for living. Popular relies on phrases like, “everyone is doing it” or “I just want to fit in” to support conduct, morality, or ethical standards. Popularity makes culture our authority and for the disciple of Jesus, this is unacceptable.

In this week’s reading, we see the pitfalls of seeking popularity. Remember that Israel has asked Samuel for a king. Samuel has talked to God and God has appointed a king in Israel. Saul is the first king of Israel.

If you grew up hearing about Saul, your first impressions are not good ones. We often think of Saul as the madman who chased David, got lost in jealousy, and lost his kingdom. But look closely and you will see that Saul started off well. He was a decisive leader who saved Israel from the Ammonites. He fought against the Philistines. He honored the ark of God and listened to Samuel. Saul was a great first king. He was chosen by God and popular among the people. He was tall, good looking, a gifted military leader, and concerned with the people of Israel. So what happened?

Saul sought popularity. In 1 Samuel 15, the prophet Samuel goes to King Saul and tells him that the Lord has decided to move against the Amalekites. The Amalekites were the enemy of Israel and had oppressed God’s people when they came out of Egypt and were headed to the promised land. God told Saul, through Samuel, to go against the Amalekites and devote everything to destruction. Saul obeyed the command to fight and the Amalekites were defeated. But Saul did not devote everything to destruction. Saul allowed the people to keep the best sheep and oxen as spoils of war. When confronted by Samuel, Saul was honest and told him in 1 Samuel 15:24 that he did not fully obey God because he was afraid of the people. Saul wanted to be liked rather than be obedient. The result was catastrophic for Saul. Because of his actions, God decided to remove the kingdom from Saul and give it to another.

As Christians today we are called to be followers of God, not followers of the culture. We live by one standard, the standard of Jesus. We follow one voice, the voice of God. What the world thinks, or what the world wants, is not our focus or our guide. While it is a struggle to turn away from the world, to turn away from popularity, it is important to spiritual health. We cannot live with an ever shifting change in morality. We must build lives on the anchor of God’s character.

What ways do you seek popularity? How does the world call us to a different standard than God calls us to follow? Where do you most need the strength of God to stand up to the world? These are important questions to ask as we read this week. Embedding the Bible means we embed a standard for living. A standard that flows from the presence, promise, and power of God.

My prayer for you this week is that you can stand with God in every moment. That the voices of the world become dim in your ears and in your heart. My prayer is that you can look like Jesus as you live out His nature and character in every moment.

Date Daily Reading
September 11 1 Samuel 11
September 12 1 Samuel 12
September 13 1 Samuel 13
September 14 1 Samuel 14:1-22
September 15 1 Samuel 14:23-52
September 16 1 Samuel 15
September 17 1 Samuel 16
September 18 1 Samuel 17


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Who Will Lead?

I will admit it…I like to be in charge. I think we all do to a certain extent. We like to be in charge of our own decisions. We like to be in charge of where we go and what we do. We like to be masters of our own ship and king of our own castle. But the truth is that we all live under the authority of something or someone else.

We all live under the authority of need. We need food and water and shelter to survive and thrive in this mortal life. So we work and save and plan. We live under the authority of the government. We live under the authority of parents and even friends. We surrender to all kinds of authority in our lives. Sometimes that authority chafes and sometimes it is easy. But we all live under authority. The important thing is to choose what kind of authority we will live under.

In our reading this week we see an interesting period in the history of Israel. It is a time of transition when the people of God are making decisions about how they want to be lead, what kind of authority they will live under.

It all started out as a simple family living in Canaan. Jacob and his twelve sons and his daughter lived in peace in the land that God had promised to Abraham. Authority was firmly established. Jacob was the father and so he made the decisions. But his authority was marred by a love for a special son and the rebellion of his brothers. So things changed.

Joseph matured in Egypt. First as a slave then as a prisoner then as a ruler of man. He helped feed a nation and so met up again with his family. He brought them to live in Egypt where they settled in a good land and prospered. Then things changed.

There rose a Pharaoh who did not know Joseph. He only knew that the Israelites would make good slaves. So he put them to work and oppressed them. Until God sent Moses to lead His people out of slavery. Ten plagues changed everything.

The people left Egypt and went to Sinai. Here God formed a family into a nation. He gave them a Law and an identity. They were the people of God’s own choosing. A people belonging to the Lord. Through rebellion, wandering, and the conquest of Canaan, the people grew. Each step of the way was guided by the authority of God. But eventually that changed.

In 1 Samuel the people have decided to reject the leadership of God. They go to Samuel and ask for a king. Samuel goes to God, angry at the request of the people, but God is ready to allow the people free will. God gives them the freedom to choose their leadership. They choose to follow the ways of the world. The results will be disastrous.

Being in charge comes with a grave responsibility. Being in charge means we make decisions that affect the entire course of our future. God wants what is best for us, so He offers us His leadership. He calls for our surrender. It is hard at times, but well worth it. You see, God has a view of the future that we can never have. God knows the hearts of men like we can never know. God calls us to standards that are higher than we can imagine and then empowers us with strength beyond ourselves. But it begins with surrendering to God’s authority.

The most important decision that I can make is to live under the authority of God. This means giving up control. This means that I am not in charge. But that is OK. God offers something better. He offers Himself. So ask yourself the question, “Who will lead?”

Date Daily Reading
September 4 1 Samuel 4
September 5 1 Samuel 5
September 6 1 Samuel 6:1-7:2
September 7 1 Samuel 7:3-17
September 8 1 Samuel 8
September 9 1 Samuel 9
September 10 1 Samuel 10
September 11 1 Samuel 11


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I Want to Be Like Ruth

We sing a song at VBS with our kids. It goes…

“I want to be like Daniel, I want to be like Ruth!
I want to be like Daniel, I want to be like Ruth!
For Ruth she was so good and kind,
And Daniel was a mighty man….
I want to be like Daniel, I want to be like Ruth!”

It’s a simple song that the kids sing in parts, but more than that, it is a song that teaches them, and us, to honor the characteristics of Bible people.

I like Bible people. I will admit that I have a tendency to put them on a pedestal or make them more “holy” than they might have been. But there is a danger in that. You see, the people in the Bible were not meant to simply be examples of how to get it right. It is their ability to struggle through life, the same kind of life and struggles that we all deal with, that teach us how to best walk with God. The Bible does not present these people as perfect. The Bible shows us how they struggle and how they fail, as well as how they succeed. It is in that struggle that I often find myself.

The story of Ruth has a lot of layers. There is the story of Naomi, a woman who followed her husband out of the Promised Land and away from God. She suffered grief and loss in her journey away from God, but there was also blessing. A blessing that gave her Ruth and led her back home.

There is also the story of Boaz. This is a story of how a man can live out the character of Jesus. Boaz is the “kinsman-redeemer” in the story. The one who brings Ruth into the people of God and makes her a part of the family of God’s people.

There is the story of lineage and the backstory of a king who followed God with his whole heart. A lineage that would lead to a Savior for mankind and hope for eternity with God.

There is also the story of Ruth. A foreigner who makes a decision to become a part of God’s people. Ruth starts out the story in Moab, a place that has long been hostile to God’s people. She gave herself first to marriage with Naomi’s son. That son died and Ruth was now faced with a choice. Continue to walk in to a relationship with God, or turn back and live in the world she had grown up in. Ruth decides to follow Naomi and live with the people of God. The choice was not easy, but it was beautiful. And Ruth new exactly what it meant.

Ruth 1:16-17 says,” But Ruth said, “Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there will I be buried. May the LORD do so to me and more also if anything but death parts me from you.”

The words are not random, the commitment is not shallow. Ruth is walking away from her people and the world that she knows. She is willing to go wherever God may lead her and dwell in a land of God’s choosing. Ruth will invest in the lives of God’s family and she will remain faithful until death.

Ruth teaches us what it means to surrender. To give all to follow God. That little song we sing for children is more real to me now than it has ever been. “I want to be like Ruth!”

Date Daily Reading
August 28 Ruth 1
August 29 Ruth 2
August 30 Ruth 3
August 31 Ruth 4
September 1 1 Samuel 1
September 2 1 Samuel 2
September 3 1 Samuel 3
September 4 1 Samuel 4


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Strong in the Lord

There’s a group of boys playing in my front yard. I stand in the garage and get to listen as they interact. They range from 8 to 10 years old and are intent on playing a “Home Run” game with a whiffle bat and balls. The object is to hit the balls over the cars in the driveway. Every time one makes it, there is a chorus of cheers and clapping, encouragement to hit another, and the recognition that the boy who hits is really strong. It is that recognition of strength that makes me laugh. Everybody wants to be strong. Strength can be a real asset in home run hitting, or football, or soccer, or any other sport or game that 9 year olds play.

But if I stop and think it through, that’s true of adults too. Everyone likes to be strong. We talk about strength in a variety of areas. Strength of almost any kind is desirable in our culture. It is an attractive quality in men and women. It brings confidence and a sense of self-assurance. Physical strength emotional strength, financial strength, you name it and we desire it. We desire to be viewed as strong. We hate to be viewed as weak.

This week, as we finish up the Book of Judges, we look at a man who was known for his strength, Samson. His name is a byword for strength. When I was young, I had a Bible with pictures and Samson was the guy with the biggest muscles. He looks like a professional wrestler or body builder. Long flowing locks of hair that blow in the wind. He doesn’t own many shirts, but he has whole shelves full of oil. The women swoon as he walks by and the men are jealous. He looks like he has it all together and the stories they tell about his strength are amazing. He has killed a lion with his bare hands. He has torn the gates off of a city wall. He breaks cords and rope by flexing his muscles. He has killed Philistines by the thousands.

But where does his strength come from? As a child I thought it was all about his hair. The longer the hair, the stronger Samson became. But as an adult, I know better. Samson’s strength came from God. It was the spirit of God coming on Samson in power that enabled Samson to commit the deeds he carried out. He started off as a child living under a vow. The vow was meant to dedicate Samson to the service of the Lord. But Samson lived out his vow half-heartedly at best. He enjoyed the blessing, but was never very good at surrender or obedience. He drank when he should have resisted. He touched what the Lord forbade. He lied, he schemed, and he gloried in his own pride. He seemed to think that God would simply continue to give Samson his strength, but eventually, God let Samson live out his own choices.

Judges 16:20 is one of the saddest statements in the Bible. It is the moment when Delilah has cut Samson’s hair, the moment when Samson has told her his strength flows from his hair. It is in that moment that God allows Samson to live in his own strength. And Samson’s strength is not able to carry him through. The Bible says that Samson did not know that the Spirit of God had left him. He was unaware of his spiritual walk with God. He had lived so long for self, just assuming that God would do what Samson wanted, that he never realized that God was the source of his power. That is until he stood alone, blind, a prisoner of the Philistines. It is in that moment when Samson calls out to God. Not a very good prayer and really centered on Samson’s own agenda, but he prayed, and God answered.

Samson’s story can be sad. But it is a great way to learn what embedding the Bible is all about. You see, you and I cannot be strong on our own. Oh, I know we can attain all the kinds of strength that the world offers, but this isn’t the kind of strength that is important. The strength you and I long for is the strength that comes from walking with God. The strength that comes from surrender and obedience. The strength to walk away from sin and self. The strength to live in the world but not of the world. You and I want to be strong in the Lord. Embedding the Bible helps us to see the promise of God and know the strength that God provides. Embedding the Bible strengthens our walk with God so that God’s strength can empower our lives.

So take the lesson. Live out the promises you have made to God and watch God live out His promises in you. Live in the strength that God provides. Be strong in the Lord.

Date Daily Reading
August 21 Judges 15
August 22 Judges 16
August 23 Judges 17
August 24 Judges 18
August 25 Judges 19
August 26 Judges 20
August 27 Judges 21
August 28 Ruth 1


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